Saturday, February 25, 2006

The Journal Gives Author Jimmy Carter His Due

Well, I'm relieved. Ever since Jeff Trachtenberg, who covers the publishing industry for the Wall Street Journal, interviewed me about my work with Jimmy Carter, I've been awaiting the article nervously, hoping I wouldn't be quoted in some way that made me sound dopey, conceited, or mean-spirited. (I was also concerned about how Carter would appear, but of course that was secondary--this is my life, so it's all about me, me, me!)

Today the article is out (no link, but it appears on page A1 of the Journal's Weekend Edition). And it turns out that I am not quoted at all, which is mildly disappointing but ultimately fine. (I would have liked a little mention--after all my years in publishing I still get a tiny frisson from seeing my name in print--but silence is much better than something embarrassing.) After a slightly snarky title ("I, Jimmy," which seems to suggest a hubris on the part of Carter that the article itself doesn't support), the piece is a basically positive and (I think) quite accurate account of Carter's very successful post-presidential career as an author. Good job by Trachtenberg. (In my past experience, newspaper writers usually get several things wrong. Not this time, as far as I can see.)

Unsurprisingly, the best anecdotes in the article are attributed to my friend Peter Osnos, who introduced me to President Carter when I worked for Peter at Times Books, then an imprint of Random House. Peter is a great raconteur and has a stronger memory than I--as someone once remarked (fittingly I can't remember who), I could hide my own Easter eggs. Peter's memoirs, if he ever writes them, will make great reading, much better than mine.

For what it's worth, the best little anecdote I offered Trachtenberg about the former president was probably the one dealing with our exchange of e-mails after Carter received his long-overdue Nobel Prize. I wrote him, "Congratulations on your Nobel Prize for Peace. As your editor, I'm rooting for you to win one for Literature next." Carter wrote back, "It's a good thing I didn't have to choose--I'm not sure which I'd prefer." Not an earth-shattering revelation, but a nicely humanizing vignette of the great man, I'd say.

Now for a prediction: Within the next five days, the Journal will run several letters about Trachtenberg's article. One or two will be positive, praising Carter's writing and perhaps mentioning a personal encounter with him. The others will feature sarcastic attacks on his performance as president. This is the Wall Street Journal, after all.

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