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Review of a Character: Sarah Palin in Andrew Foster Altschul’s “Deus Ex Machina” (Published in “The Believer”)

The Believer published my review of Andrew Altschul’s Deus Ex Machina — or rather the character of Sarah Palin as she is depicted in that novel — in September.

Andrew Altschul’s second novel, Deus Ex Machina, tells the story of The Deserted, a reality-television program limping into its thirteenth season with low ratings and a deadened sense of mission. This season’s contestants—a gay hairdresser, an inner-city gangbanger, an ex-marine, and a dentist who seems completely uninterested in being on television, among other self-conscious walking clichés—vie to beat their fellow castaways in brutal contests of strength and endurance. It’s a dark fable about the depravities of contemporary life and the grotesque falsifications that undergird our reality-television culture, a familiar critique for fans of the postmodern metafictional tradition.

But near the middle of the novel, something sort of odd—something electrifying—happens: in a desperate ploy to revive viewer interest, network execs book Sarah Palin as a guest star. During the fourth week of the season, the Deserted traverse a frozen wasteland to beseech Palin for wisdom and guidance. Appearing as The High Priestess of Xim, Palin offers it: “You can’t spend your life crying over spilt milk… being a whiner. What’s already happened is the past, and only if people aren’t interested in progressing themselves, people who like to kind of complain and whine and put other people in charge to sit there worrying.”

Read the rest here!

Also, it’s not posted online, but you can read Altschul’s response letter to my review in the December 2011 issue.