Monday, September 6, 2010

Joe McGinniss and the Thrilla' in Wasilla

Former Swarthmore resident and author Joe Mcginniss, who moved into a house next door to the Palin family in Alaska while writing an authorized biography about the former governor and vice presidential candidate, is leaving.
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - Sarah Palin can take down the fence.
Palin's neighbor of three months on Wasilla's Lake Lucille, author Joe McGinniss, is packing his bags and notebooks and leaving Sunday for his home in Massachusetts to write the book he has been researching on the former governor and GOP vice presidential candidate.

His arrival in May made headlines and drew an indignant reaction from Palin and a visit from her husband, Todd. The Palins even tacked an extension onto an 8-foot board fence between the homes, leaving only a part of their second-story home visible from McGinniss' driveway.

Peeping into windows or peering through knotholes was never part of his research, McGinniss said.

"I've been very busy but on Lake Lucille it's been very quiet," he said. "As I told Todd back in May—he came over to get in my face about moving in there—I said, 'You're not even going to know I'm there. A lot of the time, I'm not going to be here. And when I am, I mind my own business. I don't care what happens on your side of the fence. That's not why I'm here.'"
So it was just a coincidence that he moved in right next door to the Palins? Into a home with a deck that overlooked their back yard?

Of course, that's why he was there. Why else would he have been there? And good for him. If you're writing a book about somebody, a very public figure, and they won't grant you an interview, what better way to get to know them than by moving in next door?

For his effort, Joe has been called, "creepy" and a "stalker." He's been called worse. In a famous essay Janet Malcolm he was called a "con man" for misleading accused murderer Jeffrey McDonald about his intentions during the writing of "Fatal Vision" and a plagiarist by Doris Kearns Goodwin for his book "The Last Brother," which she alleged borrowed to closely from her own work. (For the record, Goodwin has had her own problems with alleged plagiarism.)

It could have been worse. The owner of the home could have rented her house to People magazine or the National Enquirer. Still, it's fair to say she is not a very neighborly neighbor.

The suspicion is that McGinniss moved in next to the Palins not to play Peeping Tom but for the advanced publicity for his book. You've got to admit it was a clever idea. It will no doubt, help sell books no matter how good or bad the book turns out to be.

His last foray into writing about a political family, "The Last Kennedy" was an unflattering and weird account of Ted Kennedy and his clan. The book was panned.

Too bad he couldn't find a rental that overlooked the Kennedy compound in Hyannisport. It might not have helped the writing but the publicity sure might have helped book sales.

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