A rouger shade of Palin

Those who seek to satirise Sarah, we salute you!

As the Scary Sarah Palin Show rolls into a town near you (if you live in Grand Rapids, Michigan, that is), with the former Alaskan governor, failed Republican VP candidate and inveterate "hockey mom" signing copies of her autobiography Going Rogue: an American Life, it seems timely to pay tribute to all those satirists and lefties who continue to succeed in undermining her. While cheering crowds of fellow American "patriots" greeted a red-blazered and as-ever gung-ho Palin with a roar as she descended from her battle(axe) bus, the anti-Palin book industry was preparing its national lampoon.

First up, over in New York, editors from our friends the Nation simultaneously published their subversion of the Palin autobiography, ingeniously entitled Going Rouge: Sarah Palin -- an American Nightmare, the title apparently inspired by a genuine spoonerism made by a US newsreader. The font and graphics brilliantly echo the HarperCollins official book -- how many diehard Palinettes will mistakenly pick up a copy of the collection of leftist essays at their nearest Barnes & Noble? We can but hope . . .

As the publishers OR Books say, however, this is not a spoof book, but a collection of serious essays by respected writers to provide a political counterpoint to Palin and "the nightmarish prospect of her continuing to dominate the nation's political scene". In the words of Richard Kim, the editor of the Nation:

The cover is a parody of hers and it certainly takes some shots and mocks Sarah Palin, but it is a very serious book and the book itself is not a parody. It is not at all intended as a joke or a parody.

Rather more lighthearted is another Going Rouge, this one a "colouring and activity" book, its title again inspired by the hapless local newsreader. (Can anyone tell me who? I read the story last week but now can't find it!) Again hitting shelves on 17 November, the same day as Rogue, here you can "dress Sarah for success" or "help Sarah find her way to the White House". From their website:

Yeah, yeah, we heard all about the Sarah Palin's Book Going Rogue: an American Life to be launched on Nov 17th. They expect to move 1.5 million copies, and pre-orders have been brisk. We couldn't let that stand without a fight. There are two sides to every story, but let's get something clear here -- Sarah didn't write this book either.

Then, let's not forget the excellence of Tina Fey's campy and uncanny impersonations of Palin on Saturday Night Live last year, which won her an Emmy and, it may not be an exaggeration to say, were instrumental in ensuring a Republican loss (if not the actual Obama win). Fey is said to be reprising her role as Palin to coincide with the autobiography's release.

Finally -- to those readers of a more sensitive disposition, don't click this link. No, don't, you won't like it. Don't click it. Don't. Click. This. Link. Oops, oh well, I did warn you! -- dare I just mention Hustler's inspired porno flick Who's Nailin' Paylin? Adventures of a Hockey MILF, featuring "actors" spoofing Hillary Clinton, Condi Rice, Todd Palin and, yes, Mrs P herself . . . ?

Rouge faces all round.

 

Palin

Thomas Calvocoressi is Chief Sub (Digital) at the New Statesman and writes about visual arts for the magazine.

Getty
Show Hide image

In defence of orientalism, the case against Twenty20, and why Ken should watch Son of Saul

My week, from Age Concern to anti-semitism.

Returning late from a party I never much wanted to go to, I leap up and down in the middle of the Harrow Road in the hope of flagging down a taxi, but the drivers don’t notice me. Either they’re haring down the fast lane or they’re too preoccupied cursing Uber to one another on their mobile phones. My father drove a black cab, so I have a deep loyalty to them. But there’s nothing like being left stranded in NW10 in the dead of night to make one reconsider one’s options. I just wish Uber wasn’t called Uber.

Just not cricket

Tired and irritable, I spend the next day watching sport on television – snooker, darts, cricket, anything I can find. But I won’t be following the Indian Premier League’s Twenty20 cricket again. It’s greedy, cynical, over-sponsored and naff. Whenever somebody hits a boundary, cheerleaders in cast-off gym kit previously worn by fourth-form Roedean girls wave tinsel mops.

Matches go to the final over where they’re decided in a thrashathon of sixes hit by mercenaries wielding bats as wide as shovels. Why, in that case, don’t both teams just play a final over each and dispense with the previous 19? I can’t wait for the elegant ennui of a five-day Test match.

Stop! Culture police!

I go to the Delacroix exhibition at the National Gallery to shake off the sensation of all-consuming kitsch. Immediately I realise I have always confused Delacroix with someone else but I can’t decide who. Maybe Jacques-Louis David. The show convincingly argues that Delacroix influenced every artist who came after him except Jeff Koons, who in that case must have been influenced by David. It’s turbulent, moody work, some of the best of it, again to my surprise, being religious painting with the religion taken out. Christ’s followers lamenting his death don’t appear to be expecting miracles. This is a man they loved, cruelly executed. The colours are the colours of insupportable grief.

I love the show but wish the curators hadn’t felt they must apologise for Delacroix finding the North Africans he painted “exotic”. Cultural studies jargon screams from the wall. You can hear the lecturer inveighing against the “appropriating colonial gaze” – John Berger and Edward Said taking all the fun out of marvelling at what’s foreign and desirable. I find myself wondering where they’d stand on the Roedean cheer-leaders of Mumbai.

Taking leave of the senses

My wife drags me to a play at Age Concern’s headquarters in Bloomsbury. When I see where she’s taking me I wonder if she plans to leave me there. The play is called Don’t Leave Me Now and is written by Brian Daniels. It is, to keep it simple, about the effects of dementia on the families and lovers of sufferers. I am not, in all honesty, expecting a good time. It is a reading only, the actors sitting in a long line like a board of examiners, and the audience hunched forward in the attitude of the professionally caring.  My wife is a therapist so this is her world.

Here, unlike in my study, an educated empathy prevails and no one is furious. I fear that art is going to get lost in good intention. But the play turns out to be subtly powerful, sympathetic and sharp, sad and funny; and hearing it read engages me as seeing it performed might not have done. Spared the spectacle of actors throwing their bodies around and singing about their dreams against a backdrop painted by a lesser, Les Mis version of Delacroix, you can concentrate on the words. And where dementia is the villain, words are priceless.

Mixing with the proles

In Bloomsbury again the next day for a bank holiday design and craft fair at Mary Ward House. I have a soft spot for craft fairs, having helped run a craft shop once, and I feel a kinship with the designers sitting bored behind their stalls, answering inane questions about kilns and receiving empty compliments. But it’s the venue that steals the show, a lovely Arts and Crafts house, founded in the 1890s by the novelist Mary Ward with the intention of enabling the wealthy and educated to live among the poor and introduce them to the consolations of beauty and knowledge. We’d call that patronising. We’re wrong. It’s a high ideal, to ease the burden of poverty and ignorance and, in Ward’s words, save us from “the darker, coarser temptations of our human road”.

An Oscar-winning argument for Zionism

Speaking of which, I am unable to empty my mind of Ken Livingstone and his apologists as I sit in the cinema and watch the just-released Academy Award-winning Son of Saul, a devastating film about one prisoner’s attempt to hold on to a vestige of humanity in a Nazi death camp. If you think you know of hell from Dante or Michelangelo, think again. The inferno bodied forth in Son of Saul is no theological apportioning of justice or deserts. It is the evisceration of meaning, the negation of every grand illusion about itself mankind has ever harboured. There has been a fashion, lately, to invoke Gaza as proof that the Holocaust is a lesson that Jews failed to learn – as though one cruelty drives out another, as though suffering is forfeit, and as though we, the observers, must choose between horrors.

I defy even Livingstone to watch this film, in which the Jews, once gassed, become “pieces” – Stücke – and not grasp the overwhelming case for a Jewish place of refuge. Zionism pre-dated the camps, and its fulfilment, if we can call it that, came too late for those millions reduced to the grey powder mountains the Sonderkommandos were tasked with sweeping away. It diminishes one’s sympathy for the Palestinian cause not a jot to recognise the arguments, in a world of dehumanising hate, for Zionism. Indeed, not to recognise those arguments is to embrace the moral insentience whose murderous consequence Son of Saul confronts with numbed horror. 

This article first appeared in the 06 April 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The longest hatred