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Sarah Palin quoting Pascal? Please.

November 16, 2009 | 10:01 pm
Palinonoprah

If you're skeptical about Sarah Palin being the type to drop references to a 17th century French scientist and philosopher in her memoir "Going Rogue," you've got something in common with Tim Rutten, who reviews the book in our pages Tuesday. "It's customary for  politicians and celebrities to collaborate with a professional writer on books like this," Rutten writes."However, the name of Palin's collaborator -- the evangelical Christian writer and pro-life activist Lynn Vincent -- doesn't appear on the cover of 'Going Rogue.'" Rutten continues:

Collaborators sometimes trade such credits for higher fees, but their names usually appear prominently in the acknowledgments.

Palin's first acknowledgment goes to ... herself: "I'm very glad this writing exercise is over. I love to write, but not about myself. I'm thankful now to have kept journals about Alaska and my friends and family ever since I was a little girl...."

...the hand most obviously working throughout "Going Rogue" is Vincent's. The narrative is sprinkled with literary and philosophical references that one somehow doubts sprang from the copious pages of Palin's diaries, including the role of Blaise Pascal's philosophy in her girlhood conversion from Catholicism to Evangelical Protestantism.

Rutten notes that much of the early media coverage of the book focused on Palin's anger toward the news media. In addition, they found some sensational sound bites.

  • Palin's counter to rumors of a possible split from husband Todd: "I watched Todd, tanned and shirtless, take the baby from my arms and walk him back to the ranch house.... Seeing Todd’s blue eyes smiling, I chuckled. 'Dang,' I thought. 'Divorce Todd? Have you seen Todd?' "
  • Her affection for meat. "I eat pork chops, thick bacon burgers, and the seared fatty edges of a medium-well-done steak. But I especially love moose and caribou. I always remind people from outside our state that there's plenty of room for all Alaska's animals -- right next to the mashed potatoes."
  • Criticisms of the McCain campaign handlers, Steve Schmidt in particular, who she says called her after she spoke on the phone to pranksters pretending to be French President Nicolas Sarkozy. "Right away, the phones started ringing," she writes. "One of the first calls was Schmidt, and the force of his screaming blew my hair back. 'How can anyone be so stupid?! Why would the president of France call a vice presidential candidate a few days out?!'" [Schmidt told Larry King his portrayal in the book is "total fiction."]

For Rutten, one of the most important aspects of Palin's book is the use of Ronald Reagan as a touchstone. "Palin is genuinely convincing in her admiration for Reagan, but one of the things she misses about his appeal was the utter absence of resentment from his persona," he writes. "This book, on the other hand, fairly seethes with resentment, particularly in the more than 100 pages devoted to the McCain-Palin campaign." But has she got the Gipper's magic? Read Rutten's conclusion here.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo credit: Associated Press / Harpo Productions, Inc. George Burns

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