Wednesday, January 6, 2010


There’s a dementedly bilious piece in the latest New York Review of Books in which Jonathan Raban takes on (reviews isn’t really the word) Sarah Palin’s “Going Rogue.”

Now there are many, many good reasons to dislike Sarah Palin, and Raban shares all these, but because he’s determined to hate every single thing about her, he also has to denounce her eating habits.

He starts out fairly persuasively. In her book Palin says she shops at Costco, eats generic peanut butter and dislikes “fancy food.” This of course is a form of fakery. Even if it’s true, the objection is that she attaches moral superiority to it, as if people who eat non-generic peanut butter are hideous wastrels. the kind of folks who might end up on death panels.

But where Raban really loses it is in denouncing her for liking meat. He quotes her: “I especially love moose and caribou,” she writes, “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.” Call me a bad person but I found myself sniggering at this, although if we really want to get picky, I do believe there are people in the world who might consider moose and caribou “fancy food.”

In any case it surely doesn’t deserve Raban’s assessment that she has a “sarcophagous appetite for flesh and slaughter.” Since sarcophagous means nothing more than flesh-eating, he’s actually saying she has a flesh eating appetite for flesh. Well she would since she’s a flesh eater, wouldn’t she? Just like many, many millions of people in the world, not all of them imbodiments of pure evil.

But the real thing to say is, Raban, dude, lighten up. The woman cracked a halfway funny joke. Even loathsome politicians, or their script writers, are sometimes allowed to crack halfway funny jokes.

Raban is so filled with rage, that he almost (and that’s a big almost) makes you want to see the good in Sarah Palin. For a hysterical moment I wondered whether this was the point, that he was a double agent trying to create sympathy for Palin. But no, nobody could be that demented, could they?

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