One way to segregate a roomful of normally friendly people is to throw out the name of Sarah Palin for discussion. Sparks fly! Flames fill the room! Before long, there is little left to talk about. Add a little heat to the fire by moving next door to her for several months to conduct research for a book about her, in the small Alaskan town of Wasilla where local politics and gossip are blood sports, and you have a recipe for a conflagration.
When the news broke over a year ago that Sarah Palin was being stalked by a journalist who moved into a rented home next door to Palin and her family, admittedly, it was unsettling. To think someone would go to this extreme just to add more fuel to the media fire that was, and still is, Sarah Palin moved most people toward a level of cynicism about journalism never before held. It does not appear they have retreated from these toxic levels.
Joe McGinniss is no stranger to controversy. Blogging about the release of his new book, The Rogue: Searching for the Real Sarah Palin, McGinniss says his books are "shaped by events that haven't occurred when (he) start(s) his work." He adds, "nothing is predictable, thus everything is volatile." Quoting Flannery O'Connor, McGinniss writes, "I write because I don't know what I think until I read what I say."
Plunging into a subject without wearing blinders is an engaging investigative method, and McGinniss, as he always manages to do, pushes the story forward in momentum while continuing to link new material with bits of information from past experiences and interviews. He weaves together portraits of public figures that serve as predictors of future behavior. In the case of Sarah Palin, the portrait is one of narcissism disguised as selfless public service, serious multigenerational family dysfunction disguised as family honor and values, and self-deceiving religious conviction as a call to political power.