Yes, that's seven figures (worth of money!) for one book on five Obamas. New York Times writer Jodi Kantor has just inked a deal that will make her the richest writer about the Obamas who isn't named "Barack Obama".
The New York Observer reports that the deal, with publisher Little, Brown
comes on the heels of the 34-year-old reporter's New York Times Magazine cover story on the Obamas' marriage, which argued that "the Obamas mix politics and romance in a way that no first couple quite have before."
It could not be determined whether Ms. Kantor has secured the Obamas' cooperation, but the fact that her story featured an extensive interview with them in the Oval Office seemed to indicate that she is going into the project with a good working relationship with them.
We took a look at Kantor's Times Magazine piece in October, and it wasn't bad. The Obama-marriage-as-metaphor-for-Obama-presidency theme seemed forced and over-written at times, but there's no question, really, that Kantor—a seven-year Times veteran with apparent White House access—will be able to turn out a good Obama book.
The main question: Will the First Family and its patriarch remain popular enough to justify such a huge deal for an Obama book not written by an Obama? (Presidential books can be huge successes even if the POTUS in question has been out of the limelight for a while—so long as they're memoirs and their subject got a blow job in the White House; see Clinton, Bill.) We've been hearing about Obama fatigue for so long we've almost burnt out on the burnout.
And the risk is two-fold for a book like Kantor's, which appears to be more portraiture in the vein of her Times Magazine piece, not an investigative project or a big-picture political take. Little, Brown is gambling that the public remains invested not just in Obama the President, but the Obama myth itself—what even the White House social secretary calls "the Obama brand."
As Malcolm Gladwell so memorably (did not) put it: "Obamamania must be shown to be less a short-term hysteria and more a chronic condition, like rickets."