Bringing Out the Best

Despite all the criticisms hurled at the oxymoronic “publishing industry,” it does – with some notable exceptions – keep the Peter Principle at bay, at least in terms of authors and their published work. As anyone who’s tried will attest, it’s darned hard to get published. Which is why I make a distinction between the Peter Principle at work in Alaskan politics and the markedly non-Peterish showing of Alaskan authors.

Outside a few notably literary enclaves like New York, it would be tough to find a collection of really fine writers like we enjoy among the 600,000 folks who call Alaska home. Sure, we’ve got our literary yahoos and embarrassments, but for those who rise beyond self-publishing, the Alaska card plays only so far. Call me a romantic, but I believe Alaska attracts insightful writers for whom relative isolation offers an opportunity to hone their craft, with results that are vetted by the quirky, skittish publishing markets Outside.

Not so with politics. I’m no sociologist, but the inverse may well be true. Look no farther than Joe Vogler and the AIP, with whom the nation’s Darling Sarah Palin flirted as she made her rise to the top.

The interplay between our fair Governor and the press continues to fascinate. A Peter Principle corrolary is that once you rise beyond your level of competence, you must shield yourself from anyone and anything that could send you crashing. No surprise, then, that Sarah’s new bio will be penned by a Christian novelist and pubbed by Zondervan.

No surprise, either, that McCain campaign manager Rick Davis has said, by all reports with a straight face, that Sarah’s not going to make herself available to the media until they agree to treat her with deference. Or as one letter-writer to the ADN admonished the press, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”

Goodbye, Press. Hello, Brave New World. Fortunately, Alaskan authors continue to speak articulately on the current Alaska-spawned national obsession. Check out, for instance, Nicole Stellon O’Donnell’s articulate essay “The Sarah Myth” in Literary Mama. Whether you agree with her or not, Nicole speaks brilliantly of how Sarah’s thrust into the limelight has left her tarnished in the eyes of some who used to be proud to call her their own.

It’s too bad that great opportunities don’t bring out the best in politicians the way they seem to in writers. Maybe that’s because writers have to fight so hard to get where they are. It pains me to say it, but thanks, publishing industry. McCain could learn a few lessons in vetting from you.

2 thoughts on “Bringing Out the Best”

  1. Hi Deb, I’ve been enjoying so many of your posts, from books to politics and more. Looking forward to checking out Literary Mama. Glad to see the Alaska blogosphere humming along this month. I am feeling proud of how many Alaskans are participating in commenting about our world, via blogs, letters to the editor etc. Gives me hope.

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