LN:  I was just reflecting the other day on how you and I met, Brad. Or rather, how we connected. You had written your paper on the spiral of silence surrounding the Sarah Palin birth hoax. And Gryphen posted some information about it. I read your paper and found it fascinating. So, I emailed you and asked if I could interview you for my blog. Next thing you know, here we are, going on five months later.

BS:  Some might say you and I have become the Stiller and Meara of all things Babygate, but I prefer Woodward and Bernstein. (I’m the one played by Robert Redford.)

LN:  That’s okay. I never wanted to be Robert Redford. I only wanted to date him. Anyway, I know that in this time since we’ve worked together, you’ve re-written your paper and pushed it out into the world a few more times. Tell us where you are with all of that.

BS:  I’ve rewritten it in magazine format. The original format was as an academic research paper, but it was in truth always more of a journalistic expose than a theoretical paper. The theory part, about the spiral of silence, was only the last five pages; the first 20 pages was an expose of Babygate. So in rewriting it, I have made its form true to its overriding original purpose: to expose the shortcomings of the press in covering Babygate, which necessitated exposing Babygate itself.

LN:  They go hand in hand don’t they? And I can say having read all the versions that you make an excellent case for both. Your writing is tight and sophisticated. And it’s also evolved as you’ve worked through the story. Explain what your goal was with that.

BS:  The rewrite is shorter, bolder, and much more forceful than the earlier paper. In the original paper, I avoided any mention of Gryphen’s “Tale of Two Trigs” theory. In the rewrite, I include that stuff. And I think the multiple Trigs idea has probably spooked some magazines from accepting the article. That does not surprise me. In April, I would not even mention in radio interviews the possibility of different babies being shown as Trig at different times. I did not have a strong sense then that that part of the story was almost certainly true and crucial to understanding what happened. But now I do feel that way.

LN:  And yet, the editors you’ve submitted to are still not biting. What kinds of things are they saying?

BS:  Here is part of a nice rejection note I got from a British publication: “Thank you for your interesting read. I am sorry but I am not sure that it is something we would take on as I would need to start from scratch to satisfy myself of all sources etc. and I am not 100% sure that even this would get to the bottom. What is needed is a whistleblower. Her daughter's doctor – or something.”

The online editor of a different publication, one in the U.S., indicated he definitely would use my article, in fact would feature it, based on seeing my original paper. After I sent the revision, he decided he’d better check with his publisher, who said no.

LN:  How did you react when you heard back from both these editors?

BS:  Their reactions did not surprise me. If you haven’t really familiarized yourself with the facts surrounding the hoax, it does sound a bit surreal.

LN:  In your paper you are very critical of the press for being timid and easily manipulated by Palin. Now you sound sympathetic to those who will not accept your revised article for publication. Aren’t you being inconsistent?

BS:  Well, I need to draw a distinction. It was the press corps covering Palin in 2008 that deserves the most criticism. There were red flags back then that a hoax had probably happened. When the McCain campaign responded to the fake-birth rumors by throwing Bristol under the bus and claiming she was five months pregnant – and thus could not be Trig’s mother – the journalists’ bullshit sirens should have been blaring. (As it turns out, since more than one baby has almost certainly been displayed as Trig at different times, there’s no telling what relation Bristol has to the current “normal ears” Trig with Down syndrome.) As for current editors who are encountering much of this Babygate stuff for the first time, I can understand how they might find my revised paper on the very edge of believability, despite all the evidence I present.

LN:  So isn’t this a Catch-22: Many editors find the Babygate saga unbelievable because no one in the mainstream press has written about it, but no one in the mainstream press will write about it for fear that people will find it unbelievable?

BS:  Yep. That sums it up nicely.

LN:  And what about their standard of proof? They talk about sources or whistleblowers. Can you appreciate that and/or understand where they are coming from?

BS:  Well, libel laws in the U.K. are much stricter than in the U.S., so the editor of the British publication presumably was worried about the possibility of a defamation suit, among other things. He wanted a whistleblower for legal protection.

In the U.S. there is great protection for publications against libel suits when dealing with public figures. But even so, an editor might have legitimate legal concerns: for example, would Dr. Cathy Baldwin-Johnson be considered a public figure for libel purposes? Actually, I am so careful in dealing with Dr. CBJ in my article that there should be no concern along those lines, but editors are not lawyers – they don’t know where those legal lines are.

But I suspect that even more important to U.S. editors and publishers than legal concerns are worries related to being attacked and ridiculed. Make no mistake, not just Palin lovers will attack any publication that would publish my article, so would Republicans who see the danger to their party if the details of the hoax became known. After my original paper went viral in April, we saw some pretty grubby things: “recovered memories” of how pregnant Palin looked in 2008 by underemployed journalists, columnists at supposedly liberal publications flogging those recovered memories and other nonsense in journalistically abysmal pro-Palin pieces, and of course right-wing bloggers calling me an idiot and worse.

Anyone who would publish my revised paper has to be ready for an onslaugh – just as Ben Bradlee, editor of the Washington post, needed steely resolve as Woodward and Bernstein uncovered Watergater. In corporate America today, I don’t think there are many Ben Bradlees left.

LN:  Does that mean the truth will never come out?

BS:  I don’t think so. In the first place, just because I’ve had no luck so far finding a more traditional publisher to publish my revised article does not mean I cannot get that out to the larger world. I could post it at Scribd.com, for example, and then try to publicize that fact. But far more important is that Joe McGinniss, “Fred” (as he/she is known at Gryphen’s), and Levi Johnston have books coming out soon, and the first two, at least, and maybe Levi’s as well, should focus attention on the hoax.

As someone who has published in history journals, I am confident that in time the story of the massive fraud concerning Trig’s birth will eventually emerge. The question for me is, How long will that take? Are you likewise confident the truth will out, Laura?

LN: You know I’m one of the most widely read women writers on Scribd. It’s an excellent place to promote one’s writing. In fact, your original spiral of silence paper is up there.  But I think you’re right in that the forthcoming books that will land in people’s hands might make a real difference - if nothing else, in telling a story that makes no sense. While we don’t know what kind of evidence these books will reveal, we can assume that they will describe a climate where enough people doubted the very odd official version of events. And how far people are willing to go to dig into Palin’s past will have much to do with how much she inflicts herself on our collective future.

Thank you, Brad, for once again joining me for a great discussion. And for sharing these past five months with me here on my blog. I've really enjoyed your company and your expertise. 

I’ve written before about our work as a family at the Berkeley Men’s Shelter. We love it, if that’s the right word, for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that we are giving back to our community in some small way. Our work in the kitchen is almost Zen-like, offering quiet, contemplative time before we organize and serve at a frantic pace in the dining room.

When each night is over, the Novaks will be the ones not hoarding food into pockets and bags because we know where our next meal is coming from.

The reason I say this is because while I know I should be writing pithy statements on the coiffed hair debate last night, or the state of the state fair in Iowa and who, gasp, might actually show up, I truly can’t stomach the thought. I will leave the morning after QB-ing to those who write - and pith - much better than I.

So, permit me to turn the conversation around a bit. We hold this truth to be self-evident: for every person to live a good life, someone must live a tougher one. For me to eat in McDonalds, someone has to be there to flip my burger (okay, I don’t eat mammals, but you know what I mean.) For me to “feel good” about working in a homeless shelter, someone must be homeless.

It is a given that someone will always have more than us, while others will suffer a great deal more as well. What I find remarkable is that people can actually not care about those less fortunate. That someone, namely a politician, can spend so much time and energy meeting with lobbyists or beating back tax increases, when they really need to roll up their sleeves and scrub pots and pans after 50 men have inhaled what looks like their last meal. You cannot look these people in the eye and feel anything but compassion.

Barbara Ehrenreich has just penned this terrific essay on the state of the nickel and dimed here in America. As a follow up to her phenomenal best seller of a decade ago, the author touches base on how things have so deeply not improved since the time she doffed a waitress uniform and gave it a whirl at surviving on $5 an hour. It’s a must read reminder that while the media has mourned the plight of the middle class and their mortgages, folks who never quite got a leg up in life are now hip deep in shit and holding their noses.

And while you’re at truthout, stop on by this article on “bad black moms” by a young writer who reminds us that life squats on some people like a venomous toad. The argument is made that poverty is criminalized in America. If life is bad now, what are the chances it will ever get better?

That’s my poverty rant for today. Both these writers do it better, so I want to steer you their way.

And I want to remind myself that when we begin to argue about who has to clean up the kitchen tonight after dinner, what a blessing it will be to have that to groan about. How about you?

"Don't worry. Your secret is safe with me."

At least,  I would like to think that Levi whispered those words into Mrs. Todd Palin's ear at that moment.

I love this photo. I'd never seen it before someone tipped me off to a bucket (an obsessive-compulsive collection, really) of photos on a Christian, home-schooling, Obama-hating, mother's blog. 

It's the only time I've seen this cluster of photos from this angle. Levi's eyeing the camera. I love it.

Now, let's take a moment to review what Levi told Vanity Fair magazine, shall we?

“Sarah told me she had a great idea: we would keep it a secret—nobody would know that Bristol was pregnant. She told me that once Bristol had the baby she and Todd would adopt him. That way, she said, Bristol and I didn’t have to worry about anything. Sarah kept mentioning this plan. She was nagging—she wouldn’t give up. She would say, “So, are you gonna let me adopt him?” We both kept telling her we were definitely not going to let her adopt the baby. I think Sarah wanted to make Bristol look good, and she didn’t want people to know that her 17-year-old daughter was going to have a kid.”

Vanity Fair
September, 2009

I was having a conversation about this very quote just the other night with someone. I know we've all hashed it out before, but I'm going to do it again. I've never really made my peace with it.

Seventeen, Levi. Really? Sarah would keep her oldest daughter's pregnancy a secret while on a national campaign? No one would ask where the teenager was hiding out? Or why a woman with five kids who had supposedly just birthed the last one that would need intensive intervention for a long time, would suddenly adopt another baby? For no good reason? Really? The rumors wouldn't have gotten the best of you all just as they did in real life and send a national press corp to discover the truth? Really?

Then how come Kathy Griffin said sixteen? How come sources in Wasilla say sixteen. How come nothing, absolutely NOTHING in this entire story adds up? How many puzzle pieces can there be that don't fit into a wedge created by the piece next to it?

So, any bets on what will be in Levi's book? He's sort of damned if he does, damned if he doesn't. Tell all. Tell nothing. It either won't be enough information, or the right information for just about everyone. 

So who can Levi please? Did he write it to set the record straight for the child widely believed to be his?

Or does he forever regret sending that shot across Sarah's bow in the VF article?

Will he only spill as much as will make him money? Who's to say. Whatever it is, I hope his "ghost" does him proud, cleans up his grammar, and provides the perfect story arc and character development that will make readers applaud the book and encourage others to buy it.

Meantime, Levi's sister, Mercede, has gone for broke. Buck naked with new boobs...and she looks fabulous!!!  

Gryphen has the first link to a page with some of the Playboy photos toward the bottom of his post. And at first glance, Mercede is a gorgeous girl with, I hope, a bright future ahead of her. She's got guts and stamina and I'd take her word any day over that pack of lies from the misfits to the north who squatted on her life. 

Now, I know this might sound sexist, and I know the economy is shot to hell right now. But I'd like just one investment banker, or attorney, or software developer to take this girl out to dinner. I'm talking a man with money (or woman if that's what she's into). Someone Sadie can bedazzle with those blue eyes and that perfect skin. Someone who will help lift this girl out of the mess created by everyone around her and give her a chance. And I say this because I've seen it happen to others. And it could change her life far faster than four years of education will. At least for now. (Damn I wish I had Kathy G. on speed dial.)

So, I say fly, Sadie fly. (and I mean that literally: Jet Blue is adding 1,900 new jobs in the next year!!) Take those photos and work it girl. Go for the gusto and grab the brass ring and all the other cliches that apply. And if there's an investment banker out there reading this:  take the girl to dinner for god's sake! 

Sadie is beautiful and her brother is damned, no matter what he does. That's my two cents. 

The photos in NOT AFRAID OF "LIES" tell their own story.  This is just one of many photos that show Bristol as her mother’s helper, the role she seems to play in the family.

I phoned my friend The Ghostwriter to ask him a few questions about Bristol Palin’s book, NOT AFRAID OF LIFE.  The Ghostwriter and I go all the way back to kindergarten.  He’s worked in publishing since he was 16. (While I was busy losing my virginity in a drunken stupor, The Ghostwriter was on staff of a black newspaper in our hometown.  A daring act for a white boy in East Texas, late 1960’s.) A few years ago, debts from a bad divorce, as well as advice from a trustworthy literary agent, steered The Ghostwriter to try “ghosting.”  He’s been successful at it and currently is ghosting a big-name-celebrity self-help book.   The Ghostwriter has published books in his own name, but he tells me that ghostwriting for celebrities is fast becoming an extremely lucrative field for writers.

V-A: Is Bristol making any money off  this book?

Ghost: She made hers  up front.  I’m guessing the advance was in the 6-figure range.  Maybe $125,00-300,000.

V-A:  What about Nancy French, the ghostwriter?

Ghost:  She’d be paid up front, too.  Often the celebrity pays a ghost directly or  makes up the difference between what the publisher will pay.  Think of French as a sub-contractor.  What’s interesting is that French  doesn’t appear to have ghostwritten prior to this.  In that case, the Palins may have gotten a bargain.

V-A:  What about royalties?

Ghost:  Nobody counts on percentages because sales are always risky.  Few books make back their advances.

V-A:  Bristol’s sales don’t look that hot.

Ghost:  From what I see on Amazon, her sales are ok.  Not great.

V-A:  What about marketing the book?  Whose job is that?

Ghost: The publisher will do a few big things.  Get you on TV shows, the kind of thing that takes just a phone call.  But the real work is up to the celebrity and her team.

V-A: Must we call her that?

Ghost: Bristol’s team would have been the ones to hire a literary PR firm and Internet marketing company.  The ones that do the real daily slog to get the book out there, talked about, and of course, bought.

V-A: Tell me about Internet marketing.

Ghost:  Ideally, there’d be a website for the book.

V-A: There’s not.

Ghost: Pity. Well, a blog then.

V-A: Nope.

Ghost: Twitter, Facebook?  I see comments on Amazon --  500 replies to one comment.

V-A:  Yeah, but that’s just the Palin haters vs the lovers.  None of the comments have anything to do with the book, really.

Ghost: A good internet marketing firm could have taken care of all that.  

V-A:  Would it have been someone the Palins hired who sent Bristol to book signing in a Walmart in the middle of Texas nowhere instead of a mall in Tyler or Lubbock?

Ghost: Actually, the idea of a Walmart book tour is intriguing. But you’re right. Why that Walmart and why only one?

V-A:  But if Bristol and Nancy French get their advances up front, who really gives a damn how good the book is or how many copies sell?  Where’s the incentive to hustle?

Ghost:  Welcome to my world.  Have you actually read the book?

V-A: Yep.  Quasi-religious.  A few toots for abstinence.   
Ghost: Sounds like they went broad appeal rather than niche.

V-A: You’re right.  It’s not quite an abstinence book or a “Christian” book.  It pretends to be the story of a good Christian girl, but there’s way more sin than forgiven, if you get my drift.  The book confuses being born again with “come to Jesus” moments.  My Christian friends would NEVER use that expression.

Ghost:  A good ghost follows orders.

V-A:  There’s some pretty ugly stuff. Allegations of date rape and boyfriend emotional abuse.  Lots of people calling Bristol a bitch and threatening to kick her butt.  Random strangers want to gang rape her.  Tons of mean girl stuff from her, too,  the way she attacks Mercede Johnston and Meghan McCain, who, according to Bristol, is rageful, selfish, and ego-driven probably because she’s been  marinating  too long in politics.  Shouldn’t the ghostwriter have shown the poor girl some guidance?

Ghost:  Like I said, we’re just the hired help. 

V-A:  Predictably there are few dates and lots of confusing flashbacks and flash-forwards. My favorite character is Willow.  She’s the little snoop who finds eight positive pregnancy test sticks while digging through Bristol’s purse AND who pulls Trigg’s ultrasound photo out of an envelope buried under papers piled on the table.  

Ghost:  I suppose this all supports the book’s title as her difficult life warranting some kind of superhuman courage.

V-A:  We get the good times, too.  How  Craigslist is her best friend because she loves shopping for deals on trucks and houses. That DWTS workouts were nothing compared to basketball workouts in high school, which she must have seen passing by the gym door those few semesters she was enrolled. Oh, and that she wanted to take a Haitian baby home but nobody would let her.

Ghost:  How old is this girl?

V-A:  20ish.

Ghost:  There you go.  Bristol gets to be on TV.  Nancy French gets to ghost her first book.  And the publishers write this one off as a loss. 

V-A:  You’re forgetting somebody.

Ghost: The kid who gets his own conception told as a rather dubious bedtime story?

V-A:  No!  MOM!   The world’s most perfect mom, mayor, governor, VP candidate, and spokeswoman for America who is just bound to end up in the Oval Office. Sarah Palin is on almost every page of this book.  We even get Bristol’s two cents on all the scandals from Troopergate to Trig-Gate.

Ghost: Trig-Gate?

V-A:  (reading aloud)   Some people actually suggested that Trig wasn’t our brother.  They even insulted us by suggesting he was Willow’s baby. Or mine! (123)  Willow’s baby? Where the hell did she get THAT?

Ghost:  I have no idea what you’re talking about.

V-A:  And Bristol never says that CBJ delivered Trig!  She does say that CBJ showed up later to point out on Trig’s little hand  a characteristic horizontal crease.  That’s how the family learned he had Down syndrome.    Wait a minute. I thought it was supposed to be Willow who figured it out?

Ghost: Who the hell is CBJ?

V-A:  Don’t you see?  Bristol got paid off to be her mom’s apologist!  The book is non-stop Sarah Palin propoganda:  

Ghost: This is a teenage memoir, and it’s all about her mom?

V-A:  Exactly!  What daughter would do that? Not mine. The book doesn’t need to sell or be interesting, because it’s meant to flood the public domain with more Palin disinformation--  while calling Levi Johnston a liar first, just in case, IN CASE, his ghostwritten book spills the beans on Trig-Gate.

Ghost:  You’ve completely lost me.

V-A:  Welcome to my world.   


Epilogue:  In the TV interview a few weeks ago Bristol admitted to Dr. Drew that she got pregnant as a result of missing several days of taking the pill.  He was surprised that important fact wasn’t in her book. She looked uncomfortable, lied, and said yes it was.  Take it from me, someone who actually read the book, that fact is not there.  What IS there is  Bristol blaming the pill (which she was taking for cramps)  for “not working right.”

This is the only photo of Bristol from Jan 2007 to Dec 2008 – a major two year span of her life.  No GOP convention photos.
Right, Bristol (with old face?) supporting the Trig hoax with a carefully composed caption.  Left, Uncle Track who Bristol depends on to “teach Tripp how a real man acts.”
Have we ever seen a photo of Sarah holding Tripp?  Like a proud grandmother?   Here she's holding Blackberry.

Thank you, Viola-Alex, for providing us with another insightful discussion with a friend and colleague "in the know." I so appreciate your witty dialogue and probing questions. H/T to you both!

This wraps up the Week of the Photo – the special find that reinforces for us how fortunate Mrs. Palin was to have endured an easy one month pregnancy and look so, well, darn compact at 8 months along.

Palin's pregnancy tale inevitably brings up the subject of medical professionals, what they knew, did, and possibly covered up. Which is why I found this story on the PBS NEWSHOUR so intriguing.

Imagine a sitting president, in the throes of an economic meltdown, undergoes a medical procedure that he hides from everyone but a handful of doctors. Everyone, mind you, including his own vice president.

Grover Cleveland was so intent on keeping secret his surgery for mouth cancer, that he elected to have the operation performed while at sea, bobbing along the choppy Atlantic waters between New York City and Cape Cod where he recuperated in relative peace.

This was, of course, long before the days of the Intertubes and iphones. Yet, imagine sending someone as important as the vice president (security detail) packing so your secret could be kept as quiet as possible.

Imagine having physicians not tell a soul, except for the one doctor who had to explain to his partner why he was stepping away from the office for a bit (lesson one on how leaks start).

And how about the journalist who was vilified for decades for breaking the story that he confirmed from that very doctor! And imagine President Cleveland denying it! Lying outright about his physical condition!

For which, I might add, he wore a prosthetic so that no one would notice the sink hole in his cheek or his missing teeth.  You can learn more HERE about Matthew Algeo's new book The President is a Sick Man.

So as the Palins have proclaimed:  nothing to see here. No fake tummies. No dark secrets. Reporters are horrible. And it will take decades for the truth to come out. Also. Too.

How hilarious to find this on Huffington Post.  Christina Romer lives not far from us. Our kids went to the same school, and summer camp, for many years. I used to shake her hand when she would greet in church on Sunday mornings.

Not long ago, my son and I bumped into Romer and part of her family at the grocery store.

"You're back!" I exclaimed. They smiled and said hello.

Minutes later, examining vegetables near one another, I hastened to explain how we recognized them while not expecting them to remember us. Actually Romer and her husband did, which was rather impressive.

I then recounted seeing the two of them on TV entering the seating area during the inauguration and how they were beaming.

"In fact," I added, "You were always smiling and so poised on television. Were you sad to leave Washington?"

"Christie" as she is called by many, smiled and said no that she was definitely glad to be gone.

"The weather?" I pressed.

"No, not the weather," she smiled.

We left it at that. It was good to see Romer back. Even better to hear her weigh in with that brilliant mind of hers again on TV. 

And FWIW, I stopped thinking highly of the credit rating agencies back in 2008. Digby does a better job on this topic than I. Stroll on over to Hullabaloo and check out the latest hullabaloo on the recent setback for the U.S.  Pray it away, Rick!!

Who am I to say? I never took Soil Science in college, let alone got a B in it.

I did take economics in college but I did NOT get a D. Perhaps because my really handsome Israeli professor was so groovy.

And okay, had I taken Trig, I might have gotten a D too. Which is why Governor Rick Perry shouldn't feel so bad that his college grades are plastered ALL OVER THE PLACE right now for the world to see.

There are a lot of Cs in there. So, when Sarah Palin snarks on Fox News that Rick Perry is a C student, she will be correct.

Only something tells me she reserves that disdain for gentlemen who she knows, deep down in her fluctuating belly, are smart enough to become editor of their Ivy League law review.

But I digress.  Read the red link above and get a gander at the adult education of the man who wants to secede from the union and then become president of it. And stuff.

We've just had the most wonderful post from reader, commenter and writer, Victoria. By discussing her beautifully written book about a woman, her pregnancy, sordid family tales, a baby boy, adoption, lies, deceit, murder and political power struggles - and no it's not a new book about Sarah Palin! - we were able to find some comfort in the fact that Palin-like nonsense and intrigue has existed throughout history. How we Make.It.Stop is for mankind to figure out each and every time history repeats itself. (Be sure and read the post below this if you haven't already and explore the links to find Victoria and her co-author's books.)

Speaking of repeating oneself...Brad and several other readers created composites of the latest Palin "flat to fluffy" photo. It's fascinating to see how many artistic people interpreted the photos in their own style. The repetition of the images reminds me that the effort to procure the photo was well worth the time and expense. And it reinforces for me of how patently absurd this story is. Sometimes I wonder:  What does Hillary think about this? What would Ann Richards have said? What did Janet Napolitano suspect? And why the hell is Molly Ivins not among us any longer when we need her most? Brad's up first with Lidia following last. H/T to all!

Thanks you artists, one and all, named and not. Eighteen days. Wow, just think of it. A miracle of modern foam. 

I have just finished reading a beautifully written and incredibly well researched book by one of our very own commenters here at my blog. It reminded me so much of the mythology of Sarah Palin, that it proved to be a perfect topic for discussion.

Victoria Grossack, a frequent commenter and the guest author of an early post called  "Sarah Palin: Pregnancy and Probability," is co-author of the novel:  

Jocasta: The Mother-Wife of Oedipus    

And in light of these latest Palin photos we've found and the renewed discussion about the mythology surrounding a baby's birth and an infant's relationship to his mother, I thought this an ideal time to introduce Victoria to my readers. 

LN:  I Googled the topic “Sarah Palin and mythology” and do you know, Victoria, that more than 11 million hits came up in a second. There are many titles of articles out there using her name and that word together. What does this tell us? 

VG:  Today, the word “mythology” usually means a set stories that aren’t true, and if you got so many hits with that combination, obviously many people believe that the stories swirling around Palin are fake.  But myths aren’t just false stories; they’re stories that are larger than life. One of the reasons that we're all so intrigued by this Palin "pregnancy" is the impact it’s had on us politically.  But it's also so peculiar that it’s taken on mythic proportions – yet other bizarre family stories with major political significance have been around for millennia.

Three thousand years before Palin, there was another woman with a troubling pregnancy in her past and some scandalous secrets in the family.  In Jocasta: The Mother-Wife of Oedipus, my co-author Alice Underwood and I revisit the myth of Oedipus, who accidentally married his mother.  But we tell it from the point of view of Jocasta, because she was the one who had all the clues.

LN: A queen – a real one – potentially with dark secrets – who had all the clues! Just think about it: Palin is one of only a handful of people who know the real truth about so many things. Was she really pregnant? Was the ride really wild? Does Steve Schmidt know the truth? And with Jocasta you can ask: did she ever realize she was married to her son, and if so what did she do about it?

VG: Yes, they are both women with secrets - although we hope that your readers will like Jocasta more than they do Palin!  Other characters in our book may be familiar to those following today's politics: a bumbling leader whose main strengths are his affability and good looks; destructive religious zealots; well-intentioned moderate believers; and some who simply use religion to justify what they do.  We expect that human nature in the Bronze Age was very much like it is today.

LN: But they only had word of mouth and devious courtiers and servants or oracles to kiss and tell family secrets. Motivations might have been the same, but were secrets safer back then?

VG:  I think most secrets were safer – and certainly those with power could preserve history as the way they liked it.  The pictures on walls and temples were commissioned by those in power, and the bards, who like Homer sang histories aloud, had to please their patrons if they wanted to eat.  So the media outlets of the time were controlled by those in power, and events were certainly spun to make them look better.  But we all know these things are still happening today.

LN: There’s a great passage on page 251 where you write:  “Melanthe dropped both palms towards the ground and thrust her chip upwards, breasts straining against her fine-pleated gown. The crowd hushed its applause once more as Melanthe fixed her kohl-rimmed stare on Polydorus.  “Feed me,” she hissed at him, “and I live. Give me water, and I die.”

I understand she is posing riddles to the suitors here, but I dog-eared the page for a reason. It sent chills through me.  Palin essentially thrust her chest out to the crowds and fixed her stare at the world and said, essentially, “feed me” but don’t question me. Does this resonate for you as well?

VG: We weren’t thinking of Palin when we wrote that scene, but you’re right!  The powerful distract the crowds with whatever they can – sex and scandals, for example – so that the people don’t pay attention to what is really happening.  While we’re watching Dancing With the Stars, or staring at Palin’s chest on the cover of Newsweek, the powerful are doing things they’d rather we didn’t notice. The Romans – about thirteen hundred years after our novels, but they borrowed much from the Greeks – even had a phrase for it: bread and circuses (the Latin is panem et circenses).  It was a way of distracting the populace – keeping them from asking questions – so those in power could do as they pleased.

LN: Jocasta isn't your only research into the Bronze Age, or the only ancient political cover-up you've worked on.

VG: While writing Jocasta, we noticed a mass murder that has gone virtually unnoticed for three millennia.  Those familiar with Greek mythology may remember Niobe, who allegedly cursed the mother of the gods Apollo and Artemis.  The story goes that the twin gods took their revenge on Niobe by killing thirteen of her fourteen children.  But if you don't accept supernatural explanations - and we think the idea that Apollo and Artemis actually killed people is even less likely than Palin's six-week pregnancy – then the question becomes, who did it?

LN: But we know from your book that Niobe became a blithering, insane old woman overnight. She could not bear the pain of losing her children. Palin seems to bear up under all manner of strain. I’ve often found that intriguing. I wonder if the commenters here will agree?

VG: Do you really think Palin has done so well emotionally?  Although she obviously craves media attention, her ego is so fragile that her keepers protect her from the simplest questions.  And when she misspeaks, instead of saying, “That was a mistake; of course Paul Revere was riding to warn the colonialists and not the British,” her supporters try to change reality – or at least the history recording it.  I think Palin’s skin is becoming thinner and even more stretched with time – even less substance and more air.  She reminds me of an inflatable doll.

But back to Niobe and her children.  One of the amazing things is that, as far as we can tell, no one has even asked who murdered Niobe's children.  The murderer threw the veil of religion over his deed, making it heretical even to question the murders.  Others were probably bribed to stay silent – or were too afraid to speak out.  And over time the deaths at the hands of the gods became accepted simply as truth – and then as myth. However, if you look at other stories associated with some of Niobe's contemporaries – her father, her brothers and her husband – suspects emerge.

LN: I’m sorry, I just had the strangest feeling: remind me, are you talking about a queen of Thebes or Sarah of Wasilla? The themes are frighteningly similar and overlapping. “No one asked the critical question” and “over time the story became the truth.”

VG: These legends show that some problems have been a part of the human condition for a long time.  And every generation has to fight the fight anew, because every generation contains people who seek to hide the truth.  Sometimes the truth-hiders win, for the complacent are easily misled – but sometimes they don’t, because a few brave men and women struggle to get out the facts.  Right now the battle is up to people like you, Laura!

LN: Well, that’s a weight off my shoulders! One of the things that struck me while reading Jocasta is not only how well it’s written – the language is beautiful and your research went quite deep. You’ve got every detail nailed down. There’s not a sloppy or slapdash moment in the entire story.  Have you written other books set in this era?

VG: Yes, Alice and I wrote a trilogy that covers the whole rich story leading up to the murders.  The books are: Children of Tantalus, The Road to Thebes and Arrows of Artemis.  Our readers have found them engrossing, real page-turners, but they also show that politicians have been using manipulative techniques for a long time.  You don't need to know Greek mythology to enjoy them – though if you are familiar with some of the myths that adds a bit of extra fun.  We think anyone who likes fiction, who needs a break from the stresses of the day or Palin politics, will find they offer a fabulous escape. And they’re must-haves for those who like Greek mythology.

LN: For more information and to see the reactions of some reviewers, check out A Tapestry of Bronze.

Here are some great blurbs to get you started:

The most amazing part of the series is how the authors retell the myths in such a way as to work for modern audiences.... definitely worth reading by fans of fiction and Greek mythology.

--NS Gill, About.com, Ancient History

A fresh discovery for this reader. A world...as compelling as Tolkien's but more rooted in actual history...in the spirit of Graves's I, Claudius.

–Bob Mielke, Professor of English, Truman State University, in The Copperfield Review, Summer 2011

Grossack and Underwood have an unfailing ear for dialogue and drama. The resulting books will draw inevitable comparisons to the work of both Robert Graves and Mary Renault, but throughout these books … Grossack and Underwood consistently manage a wit and breadth all their own. Readers will find themselves flying through these volumes, gripped the whole time. Very strongly recommended. 

--Steve Donoghue, Historical Novels Review Online, August, 2011.

Thank you, Victoria Grossack, and Alice Underwood, for taking the time to discuss your work with us here. Victoria will check comments, so please join the conversation!


Three weeks before Sarah Palin reportedly gave birth to her fifth child, a six pound boy, Juneau photographer Brian Wallace captured a series of photos of Mr. and Mrs. Todd Palin exiting the Alaska State Museum. Nota bene: Palin is said to be eight months pregnant here - 3 weeks shy of giving birth.

Curiously, this is the caption accompanying the photo on Polaris Images:

March 26, 2008, Juneau, Alaska, USA: In April 2011, Professor Bradford Scharlott at Northern Kentucky University wrote an academic paper stating that the "conspiracy theory" suggesting Palin is not Trig's mother is likely true and the American media is pathetic for not pursuing the story more aggressively. Scharlott walks through all of the evidence supporting the theory in the article, suggesting Trig is actually Palin's grandson. The article discusses photos of Palin in what is said to have been a late-stage pregnancy, the leisurely 20-hour trip home that Palin took after she supposedly went into labor in Texas, the refusal of the hospital where Trig was supposedly born to even confirm that he was born there (let alone who was the mother), strange statements from Palin's doctor and the McCain campaign, and so on.///Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin exits the Alaska State Museum with her husband Todd after a bill signing ceremony. Palin announced 3-weeks prior that she was 7-months pregnant with her fifth child.. Credit: Brian Walllace / Polaris

What has followed is what I call a Gryphen/Novak production.  For the past 24 hours, it's been a rigorous effort to procure the rights to publish this series of photos that a commenter linked to on Immoral Minority yesterday. H/T commenter!

From Eastern Europe, to Alaska, to New York City, I've chased down the licensing for the photos (Copyright: Polaris Images) in order to protect the photographer's rights and do things the proper way. As the author of a new novel, I appreciate Brian Wallace wanting to be paid for his work.

I could only afford one of the photos. Gryphen will provide you with all of them. Together we felt that these photos were critical to review and discuss in all their high resolution glory.

My rights to this photo on the front of my blog extend for one week. After that, it will sit in my archives for a year.

Let's make this an open thread. For now, my feeling is this:  here is the first time we've seen this image of the then governor with the "grey coat" swinging wide open.  My husband said of the photo: "She looks like a 44-year old woman who has had four children. Period."  It's astounding to me that anyone who looked like this one day, could actually give birth 3 weeks later to a normal sized baby. 

But then again, you might argue...

You asked, Brad Scharlott delivers!  Here is the same photo lightened:


And here is a little "miracle grow" for you. Exactly 2.5 weeks later.  Thanks so much Brad for your fine photography work!


Polaris Images can be found HERE for more photos. 


UPDATE #2:  Meantime, our resident neonatologist, Doc, has weighed in on this latest. Here's what he has to say:

"These new pictures definitely strengthen the case that Sarah Palin was not pregnant in 2008. There is no way that her belly is that flat 4 weeks prior to delivery, even if she was only 32 weeks pregnant at the time. Several people have commented, however, that her belly does look a little full and that she may be wearing a bandage or some kind of abdominal sling and I agree.

At first I had a thought that maybe she was pregnant with Tripp, but when I run the dates, that's very unlikely. With Tripp born on Dec 29, 2008, the date of conception is most likely in early to mid-April. Perhaps she had some kind of abdominal procedure. One idea I had, and it's a long shot, is that she had a trans-abdominal egg retrieval. Generally the procedure is done trans-vaginally, but when that's not possible they can do it through the abdomen. Once harvested and fertilized, they generally transfer the embryos 3-5 days later but can always freeze them and transfer them later.

Why would she do something like this? It actually makes sense. This is the time for Bristol to get "pregnant" to ensure that she wouldn't be suspected of being Trig's mother, since Trig wouldn't be born for 4 more weeks. As to who fertilized the eggs or who carried the pregnancy, that is fodder for the conspiracy theorists."

Thank you, Doc. I appreciate you taking the time to check in.