ANC057: Go Life! by Karin Wraley Barbee
I vowed not to need, / for me to be // instead, smaller / more free, //
a pink apple / cut.
ANCHORAGE, 1986. Some twenty years after petroleum was first extracted from the frozen tundra of Prudhoe Bay, Alaska’s accelerated growth bottomed out and gave way to an unprecedented spiraling. Sole reliance on commercial crude proved imprudent in a variable world economy, leaving the state to tumble in tandem with the crashing price per barrel. The boom burst, taking with it so many dreams of endless profit and progress. Local government, having focused on developing infrastructure and instilling culture, found itself lacking funds to pull itself free of recession. Tens of thousands of pristine properties were abandoned, creating hushed districts of foreclosure. Opportunists who had flocked to the last frontier in droves now scattered back to the lower forty-eight, the consequences of their extravagance producing a sense of freefall for the old-timers left in their wake. The population plummeted, allowing longtime inhabitants to slowly shed the glitz and, with luck, reclaim much of their rustic autonomy.
Karin Wraley Barbee’s Go Life! details the arc of one such resident, a nameless woman building her life upon a foundation of Reagan worship, willpower, and pride. Enthusiastically patriotic from childhood, her adolescence is one of varsity basketball, nylons, fish belly, and beer. Lean years as a poor mother lead to clandestine relations with oil industrialists and an eventual career in politics. That her existence is pieced together from redacted text culled from Sarah Palin’s bestselling memoir, Going Rogue, is all but irrelevant. Go Life! sincerely examines both womanhood and the corruption, greed, and sex forever manipulating our republic. In the folds of its narrator’s spirited quest for greatness, we feel the rush of life at “the razor’s edge, / thirsty and ecstatic, / the gasline team yelling: / DRILL! / DRILL!/ DRILL!”