In the world of juicy book leaks, this one takes the cake.
Fox News reporter and Doonesbury cartoon character Roland Hedley (fictional) leaked details about Joe McGinniss’s unauthorized biography of Sarah Palin (real) in comic strip in papers Tuesday by cartoonist Garry Trudeau.
A promotions genius, author McGinniss first made headlines when he appointed himself Ms. Palin’s biographer, moved to Wasilla, Alaska, and rented the house next to Palin’s, the better to observe her comings and goings (and prompted an angry Facebook response from the former governor). This time, McGinniss gave out several copies of his unreleased biography of Palin, “The Rogue: Searching for Sarah Palin,” including one to Doonesbury cartoonist Trudeau, who previewed the book in Tuesday’s Doonesbury comic strip.
It started last week, when Fox News reporter Roland Hedley accidentally received an early copy of the book in the strip. Hedley’s boss, a character based on real-life Fox exec Roger Ailes, asked him to send complimentary tweets on the book, stressing that Palin is a major asset for Fox. That proves to be a hard task for Hedley. As he reads the book in the comic strip, we the reader, are treated to actual excerpts from McGinniss’s actual book.
In one excerpt Hedley reads: "She didn’t want anybody to follow her to Nordstrom’s when she went shopping every day…She didn't want anybody to know she wasn't coming in until ten a.m. and then leaving by three... You know what she was? A housewife who happened to be governor. I'd fly cross country with her many times and she'd spend the whole trip looking at People magazine." Nonetheless, ever the loyal spinmaster, Hedley manages to put a positive spin on the revelations. In the comic strip, he tweets, "New book explodes myth of Sarah not reading."
It’s a brilliant promotions plan by McGinniss and not surprisingly, it’s gotten plenty of media attention.
McGinniss sent Trudeau an advance edition of his book last spring. Trudeau told The Washington Post the 300-plus page book contained “an embarrassment of riches… And, of course, there were revelations that didn’t make the cut because I couldn’t figure out how to make them work as comedy.”
It's "the beginning of a beautiful relationship," wrote The Washington Post's Michael Cavna.
Not everyone was so amused. The Chicago Tribune decided not to run the Doonesbury comic strip Tuesday and any other day the strip dealt with the book.
“The subject matter does not meet our standards of fairness [because] the strips include excerpts from a book that is not yet on the market and therefore unavailable for review or verification by the Tribune," they wrote in an editorial note.
Perhaps. But we can’t resist the controversy and clever marketing that is boosting both McGinniss’s forthcoming book and Trudeau’s comic strip. Real book previews lodged in the funny, fictional world of a comic strip? We’re hooked.
Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.