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Geoffrey Dunn
The Lies of Sarah Palin
Reviewed by: Rick Kleffel © 2011

St. Martin's Press
US Hardcover First Edition
ISBN 978-0-312-60186-7
Publication Date: 05-19-2011
464 Pages ; $26.99
Date Reviewed: 05-30-2011

Index:  Non-Fiction

The truth is, in itself, not a particularly interesting story. It may be news, and it's certainly important to know the truths about those who govern us, but we can and should read news differently from the way we read books. As participants in a civil society, we need to be able to distinguish between truth and lies. Both books and news can help us make the distinction, but they do so in different ways. News is best as succinct reportage, a recitation of facts that gives readers raw information from which to make decisions.

Books are by my definition, at least, longer than news and necessarily have a different aim. Books should tell stories, even if those stories are current events, non-fiction news. News can tell stories but it need not do so to be effective, and some times it should not. Moreover, the language of books is different from that of the newsroom. It goes back to the story. We want to hear a voice.

Even the raw facts about Sarah Palin are compelling, and for those who are inclined, you can find lots of book-length collections of news (or pure fantasy) about Palin masquerading as books. Huffingon Post blogger Geoffrey Dunn dug deeper, and went back again and again to find the facts of Sarah Palin's life. He went behind the 24-hour news churn to look at stories that were yesterday's news. There is a lot we do not know. But most importantly, he found the story in her life. With so much new material, there is undeniably quite a bit of news in his new book, 'The Lies of Sarah Palin.' But it is the story that keeps us hooked, the voice we want to hear. 'The Lies of Sarah Palin' is a book.

Dunn's book is pretty simply constructed. We get the life of Sarah Palin, as told by those who know and knew her, in roughly chronological order. It stands in pretty stark contrast to the official version, however, and here's where Dunn shows his ability to write more than news. While carefully documenting everything he writes about Palin, he also manages to give readers a story, to put things in context. Through fine prose, a remarkable job of excavating witnesses and friends from across the years, and the ability to craft character from fact, Dunn tells us the story of Sarah Palin.

This story is not without controversy, and what Dunn presents contradicts much of the publicity associated with Sarah Palin's carefully constructed image. In a sense, this is also a book about the state of news coverage in American media, where competence and coherence compete for our attention with sheer chutzpah, while we select facts to bolster our own opinions from a buffet of boutique made-for-me outlets. Dunn's story is powerful and convincing, no matter what your political inclinations may be. Of course, you'd have to read it, and by virtue of the title alone, many will understandably be disinclined to do so. They'll certainly miss a compelling story of American politics.

Dunn's telling is a quick read; it seems almost like a political thriller, and his sense of characterization is strong. From her earliest years, Dunn finds strong evidence that Sarah Palin found it natural and easy to say whatever she thought might help her accomplish the goals immediately before her. Dunn's portrait, his work of non-fiction, is not less than the political arc — and thus far, incomplete — of a natural storyteller. 'The Lies of Sarah Palin' manages the difficult feat of being a powerful book about the powerful lies of Sarah Palin.

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