Monday, January 18, 2010

Going Rogue versus True Compass

I thought this review, which was written for the Odessa American Newspaper by my friend Charlena Chandler, comparing Going Rogue: An American Life by Sarah Palin and True Compass: A Memoir by Edward M. (Ted) Kennedy, was balanced, an interesting perspective, well-written, and well ...  you'll see ... especially since it was published in west Texas "Palin country!" I'd love to get your comments back. For those of you unfamiliar with how to comment on my blog, it is really simple. Click on "comment" then choose as your profile, "anonymous" and go at it.

Thanks to Charlena Chandler, author of the exceptional book  
On Independence Creek: The Story of a Texas Ranch, 
 for being such a wonderful writer, person, and friend.  

Going Rogue versus True Compass
 Reviewed by Charlena Chandler

I can’t see much difference in memoir and autobiography, but I am sure that writing either one objectively is a near impossibility.  To paraphrase Scottish poet Robert Burns, we “cannot see ourselves as others see us.”

Two recent publications, both on the NY Times bestseller list, prove that personal stories continue to intrigue us.  We like autobiographies, obviously, especially by political figures.

If you seek contrast in your reading, look no farther than these two books.  We have the old Democrat versus the young, well, somewhat, Republican.   We have the seasoned member of the political world versus a newcomer to the national scene.  And then there’s the interest of two so completely different lives that the reader will wonder if these writers grew up in the same country.

Both Sarah Palin’s Going Rogue and Edward Kennedy’s True Compass are going to be around for a while.   Reading them back- to- back produced surprising reactions.  The governor’s likeability rating dropped (for me) after reading her book, but I found myself admiring the senator more - here’s why.

There’s an awful lot of self-serving in Going Rogue. Way too many explanations as to how the McCain campaign people tried to “destroy” her reputation and how Katie Couric's question on her reading material “annoyed” the Governor.

Why would the McCain managers want to destroy their own vice-presidential candidate?  Can’t get an angle on that, personally.  And why would a person running for a national office refuse to share the source of her information, as in newspapers and magazines?  If that is hard questioning, maybe the frying pan was just too hot.

As I read, I kept waiting – and waiting - for her answer, thinking she might share her reading habits with us, as a little bonus.  Didn’t happen.  Obviously, Mrs. Palin has a personal axe to grind with Mrs. Couric, whom she calls “Miss Perky” and, boy, does she grind it. 

I also expected a lot of reputation polishing with Senator Kennedy, but he came through much more forthrightly than anticipated. He shoulders full responsibility for shameful events, especially the tragic Chappaquiddick.  By refusing to gloss over his flawed personal life, he gains in stature.

When a person gathers his earthly years together for accounting, knowing that the end is near, it seems a last opportunity to excuse one’s actions, to tidy up one’s sins with a bottle of Windex.  As an avid reader of memoir, I never sensed anything of the sort in True Compass.

And, let’s face it - True Compass is the more fascinating story. The playing field is not exactly even. Growing up as a member of the family that has been called America’s royalty can’t help but be a tad more dramatic than growing up in a small Alaska town that most of us had never heard of until Senator McCain’s stunning announcement of his vice-presidential pick. 

Mr. Kennedy, regardless of our personal feelings for him, lived through unimaginable sorrow. One brother, the favorite son, killed during a World War II mission, two brothers assassinated, a sister and a nephew killed in plane crashes, two children diagnosed with cancer – the Kennedy story, now winding down, is undeniably a part of American history – and this book is the last chapter.

I somehow suspect we’ll hear more from Sarah Palin. Still, it’s hard to see ourselves “as others see us.”


  1. Sue Ann, I loved the wonderful story about Suzy and my sincere thanks to you and Charlena for the great reviews of the two books. Your Very Smart Gals is my favorite place to visit.

  2. Oh, my gosh! Right up there with Kennedy and Palin - me! That was very generous of you - both the space and kind words. I had no feedback, positive or negative, from Odessa American readers. Most readers just don't take the time to respond. (unless they are really angry!) I know you have many followers who don't comment - I wish I could encourage them! Sometimes a writer just likes to hear from someone "out there." SueAnn's readers, let her - and the rest of us - hear from you! I personally love this blog! Gracias! Charlena

  3. Strange - I commented several hours ago but it has not shown up - so if you get two notes from me, that's what happened! Who understands cyberspace? I am so honored that you featured my book cover along with those of Palin and Kennedy - big time authors! Thanks so much for the generous space and very nice comments - you made my day. I continue to enjoy your blog immensely. Appreciatively, Charlena

  4. Well, darn. I posted two comments yesterday and neither one has made it to you - maybe they're floating around somewhere over Austin! I'll try again to say thank you for using my review and also the very nice comments - and the cover of my book right there with two NY Times best sellers. I love reading your blog - and got a good laugh from the exercise video! Keep writing, Charlena

  5. Well - Duh - I decided to do a comment monitor thing because I got some Chinese pornography posed as a comment recently Yikes! Go Figure! How did I know it was porno if it was in Chinese? Well, let's just say there were photos included, and leave it at that!

    However, I didn't realize I had to go back into my system to approve the comments! I thought I'd get an email or something. Live and learn. Thanks Charlena for all your comments (especially the ones saying "where are my comments" ha ha) and for encouraging others to comment.

    And thank to everyone who does comment. I love hearing back from people. It's just so nice to have some dialogue that isn't one-sided.

    I promise I'll check comments daily now that I know I have to. Duh again!!!


  6. Reading your blog is like having a cup of tea with old friends. I'm still giggling over poochi!

  7. Thanks Dear - and thanks for commenting!