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.

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Edinburgh in the time of Harry Potter - growing up in a city that became famous for a book

At first, JK Rowling was considered a local author done good, rather than fiction’s future megastar. 

In an Edinburgh playground, circa 1998, I found myself excluded from one of the world’s first Harry Potter cliques. My best friend Sophie had a copy of a book with a title which seemed indecipherable to me, but she insisted it was so good she couldn’t possibly let me read it. Instead, she and the other owner of a book huddled together in corners of our concrete, high-walled playground. I was not invited.

Exclusion worked. Somehow I procured a copy of this book, rather sceptically read the praise on the cover, and spent the next day avoiding all company in order to finish it. After my initiation into the small-but-growing clique, I read the second book, still in hardback.

Edinburgh at that time was something of a backwater. Although it still had the same atmospheric skyline, with the castle dominating the city, the Scottish Parliament was yet to open, and the Scottish banks were still hatching their global domination plans. The most famous author of the moment was Irvine Welsh, whose book Trainspotting chronicled a heroin epidemic.

In this city, JK Rowling was still considered to be a local author done good, rather than fiction’s future megastar. She gave talks in the Edinburgh Book Festival, a string of tents in the posh West End Charlotte Square. By the time I saw her (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, hardback edition, 1999), she had graduated from the tepee to the big tent reserved for authors like Jacqueline Wilson and Michael Rosen. At the end we queued up for the book signing, and she told me she liked my purple dungarees.

At that time, there were no films, and what the characters should look and sound like was a constant playground debate. Another member of the Harry Potter clique I spoke to, Sally*, remembers how excited she was that “she did the same voice for Hagrid that my mum did when she was reading it to me”.

About the same time, a rumour spread around school so incredible it took a while to establish it was true. JK Rowling was moving to the street where some of our Harry Potter clique lived. We started taking detours for the privilege of scurrying past the grand Victorian house on the corner, with its mail box and security keypad. The mail box in particular became a focus of our imagination. Sophie and I laboured away on a Harry Potter board game which – we fervently believed – would one day be ready to post.

Gradually, though, it was not just ten-year-olds peeping through the gate. The adults had read Harry Potter by now. Journalists were caught raking through the bins.

Sally recalls the change. “It was exciting [after she first moved in], but as it was just after the first book it wasn’t as much of a big deal as it soon became,” she recalls. “Then it just felt a little bizarre that people would go on tours to try and get a glimpse of her house.

“It just felt like an ordinary area of town with ordinary people and it made me realise the price that comes with fame.”

Edinburgh, too, began to change. As teenagers (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, 2003) we liked to gather at the Elephant House cafe, on the bohemian George IV Bridge. We knew it was one of the cafes JK Rowling had written in, but we also liked its round wooden tables, and its bagels, and the fact you got one of the hundreds of miniature elephants that decorated the café if your bagel was late. It became harder and harder to get a seat.

We scoffed at the tourists. Still, we were proud that Harry Potter had put our city on the map. “As I grew older, it was fun to think of her writing the books in local cafes and just being an ordinary person living in Edinburgh with a great imagination,” Sally says. As for me, it was my trump card during long summers spent with bored Canadian teenagers, who had not heard and did not care about anything else relating to my teenage life in Scotland.

The last in the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, was published in July 2007, a month after I left high school. Not long after that, I left Edinburgh as well. The financial crash the following year stunned the city, and exiled graduates like me. I fell out the habit of reading fiction for fun. JK Rowling moved to a house on the outskirts of Edinburgh, ringed by 50 foot hedges. The Scottish independence referendum divided my friends and family. On Twitter, Rowling, firmly pro-union, was a target for cybernats.

Then, two years ago, I discovered there is another Harry Potter city – Porto. As in Edinburgh, medieval passageways wind past stacked old houses, and the sea is never far away. JK Rowling lived here between 1991 and 1993, during her short-lived marriage, and drafted the first three chapters of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. In the university district, students wear black, ragged gowns, and the fantastical wooden carvings of the Livraria Lello bookshop is tipped to be the inspiration for some of the aesthetic Rowling applies to the books.

I don’t know whether it did or not. But it made me realise that no city can possess an author, and not only because she could afford to any part of the globe at whim. Standing in the bookshop and watching the students drift by, I could imagine myself in some corner of the Harry Potter world. And simultaneously, perhaps, some tourists queueing for a table at the Elephant House were doing the same.

*Name has been changed

Now read the other articles included in the New Statesman’s Harry Potter Week.

Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines. 

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