April 26 2004
Clinton’s Memoirs to Be Released in June
NEW YORK – The suspense is over, almost. Former President Clinton’s
memoirs will be published in late June, and promotion will begin a
few weeks earlier with a speech at BookExpo America, the industry’s
“It is the fullest and most nuanced account of a presidency ever
written, and one of the most revealing and remarkable memoirs I have
ever had the honor of publishing,” Sonny Mehta, president and
editor-in-chief of Alfred A. Knopf, said in a statement Monday.
“He talks with candor about his successes, as well as his setbacks,
looking at both his career in public service and his life.”
The book, for which Clinton received a reported $10 million to $12
million, will be called “My Life.” Knopf is planning a first printing
of 1.5 million, a realistic number given the success of “Living
History,” the memoirs of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Nearly 1.7 million copies of the hardcover of “Living History” are in
print and a 525,000 first printing was announced for the paperback,
which just came out.
If the former president should fail to sell more books than the first
lady, he won’t be alone. Memoirs by Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan
both proved less popular than those written by their wives.
No precise date has been set for the book, which Clinton is still
completing. Details on the book’s length, cover and promotional tour
are also being worked out. One event has been scheduled: Clinton will
speak at BookExpo America, which takes place in Chicago from June
3-6. Then-first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke at BookExpo in
Like Bob Woodward’s “Plan of Attack” and Richard Clarke’s “Against
All Enemies,” Clinton’s book will likely make its way into the
presidential campaign, especially if the former president defends his
record on fighting terrorism.
The book was edited by Robert Gottlieb, who has worked with such
Pulitzer Prize winners as Robert Caro, Toni Morrison and Katharine
But it will be an admittedly hurried production, with Knopf having
just two months to convert the manuscript into a finished book, a
process that often takes several months.
If Bill Clinton turns out a first-rate memoir, especially about his
presidential years, he will be a true path breaker. The only highly
regarded presidential memoir is by Ulysses Grant, who devoted the
vast majority of the book to his triumphant Civil War military
leadership and wrote virtually nothing about his often disastrous
Most presidential works have the dull, self-serving tone of a
prepared speech. They suffer from the impersonal hand of a ghost
writer or from the impersonal tastes of the president. The memoirs of
Herbert Hoover, for example, include balance sheets on food
assistance to Armenia and Lithuania and estimated totals of dried
Timing and luck have kept some of the more eloquent leaders from
telling their stories. Four early, literary presidents – Thomas
Jefferson, James Madison and John and John Quincy Adams – never
published full-length memoirs largely because it was considered in
poor taste to dwell on one’s accomplishments.
Abraham Lincoln and John Kennedy were assassinated; Franklin
Roosevelt also died in office and Woodrow Wilson finished his
presidency in such poor health he never got past the preface of an