Review copies of O: A Presidential Novel are in my office now, along with more verbiage about the publishing stunt from Simon & Schuster's Jonathan Karp.
"A draft of this novel was read and edited by about ten people at Simon & Schuster," writes Karp. "None of them had any contact with the author, who received their comments in writing." And more on the anonymity, which Karp says he's "been asked a lot of questions about":
The author is someone who has been in the room with Barack Obama and knows this world intimately. The author wishes to remain anonymous to avoid being pigeonholed or ignored or scorned on the basis of associations, views, or background. By choosing anonymity, our author is following in the tradition of Jane Austen, the Brontes, The Federalist Papers , The Story of O , and, of course, Lemony Snicket.
Quite a tradition. If there's a point in this enterprise, it's going to be reading the thinly-veiled portraits of Obama familiars who show up in the book. So I'll just spoil the ending of the novel, which is about O's fictional 2012 campaign. He loses momentum at the end -- four days out, "the numbers were still moving in the wrong direction," and he spends the day before the election musing about how he disappointed voters who could never really have been satisfied.
He had rejected the script for the recording that would air that night and rewritten it himself. He wanted Americans to know he recognized he had made them a promise he couldn't keep. He couldn't change politics, because it required self-denial; it required a change in himself, in other politicians, in Washington, and in voters that none of the parties were selfless enough to make.
Americans would make their history, and his too, in the bargain. He and the country were theirs to do with as they wished, at the service of those restless, discontented dreamers.