Is Palin's 'Going Rogue' A Good Read?
REBECCA ROBERTS, host:
Well, it hasn't been out a day, but 2008 vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin's new memoir "Going Rogue: An American Life," may be destined for the bestseller list already. Palin's appearance on "Oprah" yesterday only heightened the buzz, and given the former Alaska governor's lightning-rod status, it's no surprise that pundits are combing through the books for clues to Palin's political ambitions, not to mention her political prospects. But what we really want to know is, is the book a good read?
NPR's congressional correspondent Andrea Seabrook curled up with "Going Rogue" today. And now she joins us to give us her impressions. Thanks for joining us, Andrea.
ANDREA SEABROOK: Hey, Rebecca.
ROBERTS: So my guess is you have read more than your fair share of political memoirs?
SEABROOK: A few. A few.
ROBERTS: Yeah. So how does Palin's book stack up?
SEABROOK: Well, it's interesting you should put it in that context. When you're reading a political memoir, it's always a game of expectations. None of them are going to be a great literature, because they're out there for a purpose. They're building a character in the eye of the public or, you know, they're -it's sort of almost a PR game, in some ways.
This one is not terrible. It is folksy. It starts off with really flowery and beautiful descriptions of the sort of icy countryside of Alaska, but it quickly moves into a darker place, I think. There are occasional flashes of anger. She lashes out at everything from the ACLU, to vegetarians, to the Alaska State GOP, to the McCain campaign, to the American left.
So it's - it ends up being - feeling in the end like there is a lot of pent-up resentment for how she feels she was treated by political pundits and especially the media during the campaign. And she is telling her side of the story with a vengeance.
ROBERTS: Well, you mentioned that adjective folksy, which was one that has been applied to her...
ROBERTS: ...throughout the 2008 campaign. Does that voice come through in the book, largely? Does it...
ROBERTS: ...feel like her voice?
SEABROOK: It does, in places. There are some really funny little anecdotes, which are the things that make you sort of keep reading. She talks about a time when she's out field-dressing a moose, you know, that famous thing with her father. And her father is a teacher and says, here, hold these. I kind of want to - I want to take them into school to show my class later, and he hands her a couple of eyeballs that he had just cut out of this moose, or it might have been an elk or something.
ROBERTS: As one does.
SEABROOK: Yeah, right. And then how she was sort of like, ah, I've got limits, dad, you know? You know, there's sort of those funny moments. Even when she's sort of lashing out, she's funny, in the way that she was in the campaign. It's what makes her such a - sort of a dazzling character on the political scene, which she says things like, oh, there will always be space for all of America -all of Alaska's beautiful wildlife, right next to the mashed potatoes, you know? She's sort of doing that thing she does, making this joke and making a very clear political statement.
ROBERTS: Well, dazzling, but also polarizing. We often hear...
ROBERTS: ...you sort of love her or hate her. Do you think readers will - you know, I mean, are they self-selected to already love her if they pick up the book? Or do you think...
SEABROOK: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I think people - you know, with a character like Sarah Palin, and including with her book, people will come to it with mostly preconceived notions. And the book is not going to do anything to convince people otherwise, except that even the people who hate her have this grudging respect for those flashes of sharp humor that she has. And those are scattered throughout the book.
But mostly, people who love her are going to find a lot of justifications for how poorly her campaign went and how badly she was treated in their eyes. And people who don't like her are going to find a lot of reason to, you know, mock the writing, you know, the sort of - in some places, it's a pretty bare, American romantic story of, you know, rugged folks, hardworking, you know, it's kind of trite. It gets trite at places. So I think you're not going to have - you're not going to change the balkanization around Sarah Palin much.
ROBERTS: Do you feel like you learned anything new about her?
SEABROOK: Yeah. I mean, there were places where I actually identified with her as a mother. I got a little bit more insight into that. Her - the one thing I thought was interesting, she did a pretty good job of describing something which I think is hard for most Americans in the lower 48 - or outside, as she likes to call it, outside Alaska - to understand, and that is the feeling that you can have this deep respect and love for nature and the beauty of the countryside and care for and love it, but also believe that it is there for us to use, that, you know, drilling in the Alaska wilderness does not - is not an anti-environmental stance in their eyes - in her eyes, certainly. She does a pretty good job of giving you that sense in this book. So that was interesting.
ROBERTS: And do you get a sense of Alaska as a character or as a formative place in her story?
SEABROOK: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. Everything - it's all about Alaska. I mean, it is the great big metaphor for her own personality, just sort of this rugged, individualistic - she talks about how uncomfortable she felt in the - those clothes that were famously bought for her by the campaign, that she - you know, there's a picture of her in an anorak that she had ducked into back to Wasilla to pick up during that campaign and how - she talks about how comfortable it was just to put her own coat back on. And there's that sense that, really, field-dressing a moose - it's not just something she says. Like, she's actually - knows how to do those things, and it's really part of her character.
ROBERTS: You know...
SEABROOK: It comes across in that way that she sort of makes this backstab at the rest of the Republican Party establishment, which she seems to believe has gone way beyond its roots of independent-minded, you know, people.
ROBERTS: Well, you know, the rest of the country might have discovered Sarah Palin in, you know, the summer of 2008. But...
ROBERTS: ...she, of course, has a whole story...
(Soundbite of laughter)
ROBERTS: ...that was going on a long time before the national press had anything to do with her. How much does that story - how does it fit with the last year and a half on the national stage?
SEABROOK: Yeah. Well, it does bring to light this sense of her character. She talks about - she was a very big basketball player when she was in high school and in college, to some extent. And she talks about this game her senior year in high school where her team won the state championship. This little, tiny team from Wasilla, the Wasilla Warriors, I think it was called, went to the state to play-off the Anchorage squad and how - there was just no way. It was just - it was almost a "Hoosiers" story. There was no way these people are going to win, and they end up winning. And for the last game, she's got a hurt ankle and she powers through it and manages to get one point in that winning game.
And she talks about how this really defined for her the fact that you don't have to be - have the natural-born, God-given talent at what you're doing. You just have to want it more than anybody else.
Again, it's a little bit trite, but it also informs the fact that she has an unstoppable personality and she will literally power through anything that she gets her mind on doing. And I think she - one interesting thing, she never gives any smidgen of self-doubt in this book, anywhere. There isn't the deep, philosophical churning about how she believes this or that. It's completely sure of itself. She is completely sure of herself in this book, and I think that gives you a sense of the kind of political character she'll be.
ROBERTS: The book is called "Going Rogue: An American Life" by Sarah Palin. Our review comes from Andrea Seabrook, NPR's congressional correspondent.
Thanks so much, Andrea.
SEABROOK: My pleasure.
ROBERTS: Andrea joined us today from her home in Cheverly, Maryland. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.
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