Saturday, April 16, 2011

A publisher's revenge?

I was amused - and more than a little intrigued - to read an article in the American Thinker entitled "Simon & Schuster's Revenge".

In 1993, thirty-three-year-old Barack Obama stiffed Poseidon Press, then an imprint of Simon & Schuster -- producing absolutely nothing for the publisher that in November 1990 had given the new graduate of Harvard Law School a $125,000 advance to write a book about race relations in America.

Eighteen years later, Simon & Schuster has achieved a modicum of revenge (intended or not) by contracting with literary and intellectual sleuth Jack Cashill to impose on Obama a little of the transparency he so disingenuously promised during the campaign of 2008.

Given Obama's approach to truth, the title of Cashill's sometimes impertinent sounding imposition -- Deconstructing Obama: The Life, Loves, and Letters of America's First Postmodern President -- suggests an appropriate methodology.

In this ever so readable and informative book, Cashill has taken great pains to corral probative evidence for two interesting matters: (1) the truth about who finally wrote Dreams From My Father, the essay-cum-memoir that Random House -- providing its own advance of $40,000 -- eventually published; and (2) very reasonable questions about the paternity of the current president of the United States.

There's more at the link.

I'm not going to get into the controversy of whether the books purportedly written by President Obama were ghost-written by someone else; nor do I propose to re-hash the whole 'birther' debate here. Nevertheless, I can't help but wonder whether American Thinker is on to something. Would a publisher deliberately choose to publish a book that's negative about someone who'd stiffed it for a hefty advance, on which he'd never delivered? It's an intriguing thought . . .



Stranger said...

Let's leave the red herring that is the O'man's paternity out of it. Nationality is patralineal according to the Founders. As long as Barack Obama Senior is BO Junior's purported father BO is not even a citizen, and much less a "natural born citizen."

See Book 1, Chapter XIX, Paragraph 212 of Vattel's "Laws of Nations," for background, and search the book title for relevant Supreme Court decisions and case law. Not that any court is going to kick out a sitting president.

Steve Florman said...

I think a more interesting question is why Simon and Schuster, an old and reputable publisher with an eye toward the bottom line, would offer an unknown recent law school grad a 6-figure advance for a book on race relations - something that frankly wouldn't have a whole lot of selling power (i.e. chance of making back the advance, much less making a profit) unless they were planning (and by "planning" I mean "had a deal lined up") to pimp it as a college textbook.

I think the whole thing sounds a little fishy, frankly; I'm not sure I buy the premise. That is not to say that Gashill is wrong, just that I can't see S&S offering this unknown that kind of sweetheart deal on an almost-certain money-loser. The figures I've heard would indicate that a no-name first-book deal on an academic topic should pull in an advance in the neighborhood of, and not a lot more than, about $10,000.