Mr. Obama’s story first surfaced publicly in February 1990, when he was elected as the first black president of The Harvard Law Review. An initial wire service report described him simply as a 28-year-old, second-year student from Hawaii who had "not ruled out a future in politics"; but in the days that followed, newspaper reporters grew interested and produced long, detailed profiles of Mr. Obama. The coverage prompted a call to him from Jane Dystel, a gravelly-voiced literary agent. . . . Ms. Dystel suggested Mr. Obama write a book proposal. Then she got him a contract with Poseidon Press, a now-defunct imprint of Simon & Schuster. When he missed his deadline, she got him another contract and a $40,000 advance from Times Books.Writers of the world, UNITE! We are being oppressed, and it's people like Obama, his agent and his publishers who are oppressing us.
Mr. Obama’s original plan was to write a book about race relations. But, sitting down to write, he found his mind "pulled toward rockier shores." So the book became more personal — the record of an interior journey, as he put it in the introduction, "a boy's search for his father, and through that a search for a workable meaning for his life as a black American."
A 28-year-old law student gets written up in the newspapers, then gets a call from a literary agent? She calls him?
The agent then signs this 28-year-old nobody -- whose only credential as an author is student law journal stuff -- with Simon & Schuster. Hello? In what alternative universe does this happen?
He misses his deadline, but that's OK, because he then gets another big contract with a $40,000 advance. At this point, Obama's story is reminding me of another popular book, The Peter Principle.
But the real killer is how, having gotten a contract based on a proposal for a book about race relations, Obama pulls a bait-and-switch, and instead delivers ... a memoir.
A memoir! Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?? Unless you led the league in RBIs and helped the Yankees win the Series, how the hell does a 28-year-old get away with selling a memoir to a major publisher for $40,000?
By what accomplishment does a 28-year-old law student merit readership for a memoir? What can he possibly write that anyone would want to read? Nothing.
Mr. Obama, an inveterate journal writer who had published poems in a college literary magazine but had never attempted a book, struggled to finish. . . .
The book came out in the summer of 1995, shortly before Mr. Obama announced that he was running for the Illinois State Senate. At 57th Street Books, in Mr. Obama’s neighborhood in Chicago, a few dozen people turned out for a reading.
There were respectful reviews in newspapers including The New York Times and The Boston Globe. Times Books sold 8,000 to 9,000 copies.
First-time author. $40,000. Memoir. Reviewed in the New York Times.
All right, that's it. Forget about Jeremiah Wright. I don't care about Bill Ayers or Hamas or Obama's health care plans or anything else. When a 28-year-old student gets a $40,000 book contract based on a proposal to write about race relations, then instead turns in a memoir that gets favorably reviewed by The New York Times (!), he has committed an injustice against the profession of letters which no self-respecting author can endorse or condone.
Authors Against Obama! Who's with me?
UPDATE: I've created a Facebook group.
UPDATE II: Welcome, Instapundit readers. I don't know whether the link should be interpreted as an endorsement from Professor Reynolds. Somehow, though, I don't think any major publishers were offering him big bucks for a memoir when he was a second-year law student.
UPDATE III: In the comment field, Reliapundit notes his post from June 2005, recounting how Obama broke his contract with his first agent once he hit the big time, reportedly resulting in an out-of-court settlement. This only amplifies my argument that Obama has damaged longstanding traditions in the literary community. Agents usually screw over authors, rather than the other way around.
UPDATE IV: Hey, buy a book, OK? David Horowitz called it "irresistible."
UPDATE JULY 31: Welcome National Review Online readers. Wow, it's not every day a two-month-old post makes the Site Meter jump. Thanks, Jim Geraghty -- and I'll be sure to buy a copy of Voting to Kill just as soon as NR acknowledges the existence of Donkey Cons: Sex, Crime, and Corruption in the Democratic Party, which the magazine couldn't even be bothered to review in 2006. Ah, the injustice of it all! (Maybe if I'd had Obama's agent . . .) Have added an updated reaction.