Lincoln, steeped in the Bible and Shakespeare, set an impossibly high bar for presidential prose.
The trouble with ghostwriting is that it raises the issue of whether the president is in a state of diminished responsibility for what he says. Does he actually grasp the implications of the words he speaks?
Inaugurals conventionally start with a history lesson and finish with a prayer.
The only book by a modern president that bears serious comparison with Obama’s ‘Dreams From My Father’ is Jimmy Carter’s short campaign autobiography, ‘Why Not the Best?,’ published in 1975.
Simply as a writer of books I’m thrilled and proud that Seattle should have raised, on a public vote, sufficient money to build a central library, and moreover to rebuild every other library in the city: 28 of them.
Seattle is a liberal city, its politics not so much blue (in the American, not the British, sense) as deep ultramarine, and its manners are studiously polite.
Over emphatic negatives always suggest that what is being denied may be what is really being asserted.
No president has come near to rivaling Lincoln as a writer.
It’s been so long since a talented writer last occupied the White House; no wonder, then, that American writers have been among the most prominent of all the demographic groups claiming a piece of Barack Obama for themselves.
By the end of the 1980s, Seattle had taken on the dangerous lustre of a promised city. The rumour had gone out that if you had failed in Detroit you might yet succeed in Seattle – and that if you’d succeeded in Seoul, you could succeed even better in Seattle… Seattle was the coming place. So I joined the line of hopefuls.
Interstate highways dull the reality of place and distance almost as effectively as jetliners do: I loathe their scary monotony.
When I want an opinion, I’ll get it from my peers – from men of vision, like our great railroad builders… Stanford, Huntington, Dinsmore… fellows with imaginations broad enough to span the continent.
‘Dreams From My Father’ reveals more about Obama than is usually known about political leaders until after they’re dead. Perhaps more than it intends, it shows his mind working, in real time, sentence by sentence, in what feels like a private audience with the reader.
Seattle is this curious liberal ‘island.’
Democrats inhabit the low shores of Puget Sound, mostly on its eastern side, in a ragged trail of port-cities that stretches from Bellingham, close to the Canadian border, through Everett, Seattle, and Tacoma, to Olympia, the state capital, at the southern end of the sound.