Do campaign biographies help or harm presidential candidates? Or do they generate anything but ripples along their publishing path? The question arises because there’s one coming our way very soon, and it seems that the it is likely to cause more than ripples — like, possibly waves.
To begin with, the book is not the usual sort of campaign biography that throws together some facts from Wikipedia, offers a pleasing and positive narrative, and winds up as bland as pudding. Or as one-sided and myopic as a press release. Nope, this one comes through the hands of one of america’s most distinguished journalists, an associate editor for The Washington Post, an acclaimed biographer, and a Pulitzer Prize winner. His name is David Maraniss, and he’s coming to speak at a program arranged and sponsored by the Georgia Center for the Book (on Tuesday, June 26, at 7 p.m., hosted by Agnes Scott College).
Maraniss is no casual biographer. He’s collected reams of praise and awards fo his biographies of Vince Lombardi, Roberto Clemente and President Bill Clinton (“First in His Class”). His new book, the one he’ll be talking about June 26 here, is “Barack Obama: The Story,” is already the recipient of a lot of media attention, even though it hasn’t officially been released yet, and very few people have actually read it. That’s because one of its chapters deals with the President’s drug use as a teenager. There are two very distinct sides being drawn about this: one from the White house, the other from Republicans. No surprise there.
What won’t surprise either is that Maraniss is a careful, skilful writer and reporter, and his take on the President is eagerly anticipated and will, no doubt, be much discussed. I’m not taking sides here excepy to note that if you care about the upcoming election, regardless of your politics, checking out Maraniss and his book probably is a good idea. It might yield some worthwhile information along with a few surprises.
And, while tooting our own horn here, let’s celebrate the fact that Maraniss is making this visit under the auspices of the Center for the Book, which is the busiest nonprofit literary presenting organization in the Southeast. And its presence in this area remains the principal reason that Decatur maintains such a high profile in national book circles. The Center made it possible for the Decatur Book Festival to come into existence, for instance, and its on-going series of events — well over 100 each year, all free — have made it THE place to be if you care about books and writers.
And so ends this little commercial reminder. Now do yourself a favor and get out there and meet David Maraniss on June 26.