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Who is Sarah Palin? A novelist considers character

September 6, 2008 |  9:00 am


As a novelist, I am fascinated by the emergence of Sarah Palin as a character. This lively cross between Annie Oakley and Eva Braun seems to have released Republican chakras to a degree that could be matched only by the resurrection of Ronald Reagan. This is more extraordinary by virtue of her having been an unknown local politician until — what? oh, about five minutes ago. As the nation slouches toward her possible elevation to the second-highest office in the land, we're all taking a closer look at what's gone on in Alaska these past few years.

There's the aerial wolf hunting, the moose burgers, the book banning — excuse me? The book banning? As Jacket Copy reported earlier this week, Palin leaned on the local librarian when she was mayor of Wasilla, urging her to ban certain texts. In other words, we are in danger of going from a nation where the first lady is a former librarian to one where the vice president is a character in "Fahrenheit 451." Clearly, this is what they mean by change you can believe in.

The role of  Alaska in American literature is sure to be a popular subject in the event of a Republican victory. For me, the most intriguing treatment is "The Yiddish Policemen's Union," Michael Chabon's recent novel. The book is an alternative history about what might have happened had Jewish refugees been resettled after World War II in the Alaskan Territory rather than Israel. I don't claim to be privy to Palin's literary taste, but I would bet money that this book has not graced her night table.

And that, my friends (McCain's got me saying it now), is a shame.

— Seth Greenland

Photo credit: Stephen Nowers / Anchorage Daily News