Anonymous: Primary Colors
(researched by Sarah Bouchard)

Assignment 1: Bibliographical Description
1 First edition publication information (publisher, place, date, etc.)
Anonymous [Joe Klein]. Primary Colors: A Novel of Politics. New York: Random House, 1996. Copyright Statement: 1996 by Machiavelliana, Inc. Parallel First Edition: In Canada: Primary Colors: A Novel of Politics. Random House of Canada Limited: Toronto, 1996.pp.366
2 First edition published in cloth, paper, or both? If both, simultaneous or staggered?
The first American edition is published in board binding with cloth spine.
3 JPEG image of cover art from first edition, if available
4 Pagination
191 leaves, pp.[12][1-3]4-366[6]
5 Edited or Introduced? If so, by whom?
Dedication: There is a dedication reading: For my spouse, living proof that flamboyance | and discretion are not mutually exclusive On the front of the leaf between the dedication and the author's note there is a quote by Machiavelli reading: Men as a whole judge more with their | eyes than with their hands. Author's Note: There is an author's note reading: Several well-known people-journalists, mostly-make cameo ap- | pearances in these pages, but this is a work of fiction and the usual | rules apply. None of the other characters are real. None of these events ever happened.
6 Illustrated? If so, by whom?
N/A
7 JPEG image of sample illustration, if available
8 General physical appearance of book (Is the physical presentation of the text attractive? Is the typography readable? Is the book well printed?)
Measurement of the Page: 9" X 6" Measurement of Text: 7.6" X 4.25" Wide margins and space between the lines contribute to ease of reading. Size of Type: 103R Type Style: Serif Further Description of Typography: Type description on last printed page of the book. The page, titled "About the Type," indicates that "The book is set in Bembo, a typeface based on an old-style Roman face that was used for Cardinal Bembo's tract De Aetna in 1495." The page continues to describe the origin of Bembo and the typeface's entry into America in the 1930's. Additional Comments: The book is in good condition. The dustcover, binding, and pages are in new condition.
9 JPEG image of sample chapter page, if available
10 Paper (Assess the original quality of the paper used for the book. Is the paper in the copy or copies you examined holding up physically over time?)
Wove paper with an even, granulated texture. The book consists of the same paper stock throughout. The paper is devoid of foxing or staining. The off-white pages are in new condition.
11 Description of binding(s)
Bound in medium blue board with a dark blue calico-texture cloth spine, not embossed. The spine is stamped with non-gilt red with title, subtitle, author and publisher. The white endpapers are not illustrated. Transcription of Spine: PRIMARY COLORS|ANONYMOUS|Random|House. One leaf front and back endpaper of the same color but thicker paper than the rest of the paper.
12 Transcription of title page
Recto: PRIMARY COLORS|A NOVEL OF POLITICS|ANONYMOUS|RANDOM HOUSE|NEW YORK Verso: Copyright 1996 by Machiavelliana, Inc. | All rights reserved under International and Pan-American | Copyright Conventions. Published in the United States by | Random House, Inc., New York and simultaneously in Canada by | Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto. | Grateful acknowledgment is made to the following for per- | mission to reprint previously published material: | Carlin America, Inc.: Excerpt from "Please Mr. Please" by | Bruce Welch and John Rostill. Copyright 1975 by | Bluegum Music Ltd. All rights reserved. Reprinted by per- | mission. | Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., and Harold Ober Associates Incorporated: | Ten lines from "Dinner Guest: Me" from the Panther and | the Lash by Langston Hughes. Copyright 1967 by Arna | Bontemps and George Houston Bass. Rights throughout | the British Commonwealth are controlled by Harold Ober | Associates Incorporated. Reprinted by permission of Alfred | A. Knopf, Inc., and Harold Ober Associates Incorporated. | PolyGram Music Publishing: Four lines from "Good Ole' | Boys Like Me" written by Wayne Shanklin and George | Callender. Copyright 1958 by PolyGram International | Publishing, Inc. Copyright renewed. All rights reserved. | Reprinted by permission. | Viking Penguin, a division of Penguin Books USA Inc.: Excerpt | from "Listen Lord-A Prayer" from God's Trombone by | James Weldon Johnson. Copyright 1927 by the Viking | Press, Inc. Copyright renewed 1955 by Grace Nail John- | son. Used by permission of Viking Penguin, a division of | Penguin Books USA Inc. | Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data | Primary colors : a novel of politics / Anonymous. | p. cm. | ISBN 0-679-44859-4 | 1. Presidents-United States-Election-Fiction. | PS3550.A1P75 1996 | 813'.54-dc20 95-39823 | Manufactured in the United States of America | 6 8 9 7
13 JPEG image of title page, if available
14 Manuscript Holdings
N/A
15 Other (typograpical information from title page, etc.)
Description of Dust Jacket: The top 5.5" on the front of the 9.5" dust jacket is red with the title in white, occupying 3.25" at the bottom of the red section. The remaining section is white with the subtitle written in red at the top of the white section. There is a donkey outlined in grey in the center of the lower section. The author is in dark blue type at the bottom of the page. The spine features a white title in the red section and the author in blue type in the white section. The publisher is also in blue at the bottom of the white section. On the back there is an excerpt from the novel on the back, describing the main character, in white type in the red section. There is a donkey outlined in grey on the left corner of the lower portion. The front inside cover of the dust jacket is white with black type. It contains a plot summary. The back inside cover is also white with black type. It contains the final portion of the summary. Credit is given to the jacket designer and jacket illustrator in the middle of the page, reading: Jacket design: Daniel Rembert | Jacket illistration: Steven Blumenthal. The publisher and the publisher's address is in the lower half.
Assignment 2: Publication and Performance History
1 Did the original publisher issue the book in more than one edition? If so, briefly describe distinguishing features of each (illustrations, cover art, typography, etc.); if not, enter N/A
N/A
2 JPEG image of cover art from one subsequent edition, if available
3 JPEG image of sample illustration from one subsequent edition, if available
4 How many printings or impressions of the first edition?
There were 12 first edition printings as of February 1996, totalling 542,000 copies. By the end of July 1996, there were 1.2 million first edition copies. Thee final number of first edition printings was not indicated in any source.
5 Editions from other publishers? If so, list their dates and publishers; if not, enter N/A
1996. New York: Warner Books. 507 p.; 17 cm. [paperback edition] 1996. London: Chatto & Windus. 366p.; 24 cm. [1st British edition] 1996. London: Vintage. 366p.; 20 cm. 1996. Bath, Avon, England: Chivers Press Thorndike Press. 655p.; 23 cm. [large print edition]
6 Last date in print?
Still in print. Four of Joe Klein's other books, The Natural, The Running Mate, Street Narcotic Enforcement, and Woodiy Guthrie, are still in print. Two of his other books, Payback and Sports Quotes are out of stock indefinately according to Books in Print online.
7 Total copies sold? (source and date of information?)
Approximately 3,000,000 (Source: Publishers Weekly article online, January 31, 2000)
8 Sales figures by year? (source and date of information?)
$972,385 from release in January 1996 to Febuary 1997, 35% accounted for by three national chains. (Source: The Bowker Annual, 1997) Estimated $42,780,000 from multiplying sales totals from January 31, 2000 Publishers Weekly article by price.
9 Advertising copy (transcribe significant excerpts, briefly identify where ads were placed)
Publishers Weekly June 17, 1996 The two page add says "THE PHENOMENAL #1 BESTSELLER | WILL NOW BE AVAILABLE IN PAPERBACK!," the first line in a red block with white type, the second line in a blue block with white type. Three pictures of the first edition adorn the center of the pages underneath the preceeding lines - the first in red, the second in yellow, and the third in blue. The title, white type in a red box, spans both pages underneath the book pictures with "By | Anonymous" in smaller type just below the title on the left side of the page. "THE MOST TALKED ABOUT POLITICAL NOVEL EVER WRITTEN. . ." is in red type underneath the title. Four positive reviews are centered horizontally in blocks of two on the bottom of the page. The left fifth of the page is blue on top with "ANONYMOUS | IN | '96" in white type with the picture of the donkey featured on the first edition in white below. The blue section ends when the red stripe on which the title is written divides the top section with the yellow lower section. "NOVEMBER | 1996" is in red type indicating the release date of the Warner Books paperback edition. The right fifth features a grey vertical stripe. "UNPRECEDENTED READER TURNOUT!" is written in red at the top. Directly underneath are three bullet marked points. The first says, "PRIMARY COLORS hit #1 on | the New York Times, Washington | Post, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, | San Francisco Chronicle, Wall Street | Journal, Boston Globe, and | Publishers Weekly bestsellers lists." The second says, "To date, almost 1.1 million | Random House hardcover copies have been shipped." The third says, "Timed to coincide with the presidential election." Further down on the right side of the page, "Shipping September 20th" is in red type in a yellow box. The marketing campaign is indicated at the bottom right corner of the page. The advertising paragraph indicates that there is print advertising in The New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, Boston Globe, Time, People, and Publishers Weekly. In addition there is transit advertising in New York and Washington D.C. The promotion paragraph indicates that a 40-copy slimline floor display with special riser is $279.60.
10 JPEG image of sample advertisement, if available
11 Other promotion
The novel was largely popularized by the intense media hype surrounding the anonymous author. "Almost daily coverage" (according to the Feburary 12, 1996 "Behind the Bestsellers" clip in Publishers Weekely) during the first six months of 1996 caused sales to skyrocket. Within a two week period, January 22, 1996 to Feburary 12, 1996, the novel went back to press five times. Prior to being discovered, Joe Klein was interviewed by Time magazine via email and The New York Times Book Review "Bookend page" for articles which invariably promoted the book. Various events geared toward guessing the author's identity were scheduled by Ivan Held, director of publicity for Random House, and other organizations. As described in a clip from "Behind the Bestsellers" in the Feburary 12, 1996 Publishers Weekly, authors suspected of "penning insider's look at the poitical scene" read from the novel and signed copies at Washington's Politics and Prose Bookstore. That event was covered by CNN and CBS. The same article mentioned a page on www.randomhouse.com featuring a place to guess the author's identity. The novel received additional press during the summer of 1996 when a Washington Post reporter, David Streitfeld, revealed the author as Joe Klein after having handwritten corrections on a manuscript copy listed in a rare book catalogue analyzed. Joe Klein officially admitted himself the author at a press conference at the Random House headquarters in mid-town New York.
12 Performances in other media? If so, list media, date, title, production information; if not, enter N/A
Screenplay: 1997. May, Elaine and Nichols, Mike. Burbank, CA: Hollywood Collectables. 105 leaves; 28 cm. Film: 1998. United States: Universal Pictures. Screenplay by Elaine May and Mike Nichols. Cast: John Travolta, Emma Thompson, Billy Bob Thornton. VHS: 1998. Universal City, CA: Universal Home Video. DVD: 1998, 1999. Universal City, CA: Universal. Music Soundtrack, Compact Disc: 1998. Los Angeles, CA: MCA Records. Compiled by Ry Cooder. Audio: 1996. Primary Colors. New York: Random House Audio Publishing. Read by Blair Underwood. 2 cassettes (3 hr). 1996,1997. Primary Colors. Prince Frederick, MD: Recorded Books, Inc. Read by Peter Francis James. 11 cassettes (16 hr). 1996. Primary Colors. Ashland, OR: Blackstone Audio Books. Read by Lloyd James. 11 cassettes (16 hr 30 min).
13 Translations? If translated, give standard bibliographic information for each translation. If none, enter N/A
[Chineese] Anonymous [Joe Klein] [translated by Xiao Meihui yi]. Yuan se [title]. Taibei xian xizhi zhen: xin xin wen wen hua shi ye gu fen you xian gong si; Zong jing xiao Li ming tu she gong si, 1996, 1998. 345p.; 21 cm. [Korean] Anonymous [Joe Klein] [translated by Han, Ki-ch'an]. Wonsaek [title]. Soul-si; Sodam Ch'ulp'ansa, 1996. [Hebrew] Anonymous [Joe Klein] [translated by Hashavia, Arye]. Tsiv'e ha-shilton [title]. Ramat-Gan; Nivam, 1996. 360p.; 21 cm. [Japanese] Anonymous [Joe Klein] [translated by Kurohara, Toshiyuki]. Puraimari karazu [title]. Tokyo: Hayakawa Shobo, 1996. 430p.; 20 cm. [German] Anonymous [Joe Klein] [translated by Englischen von Uda Stratling et al.]. Mit aller Macht [title]. Muchen: Heyne, 1996, 1998. 461p.; 18 cm. [Persian] Anonymous [Joe Klein] [translated by Mu'tazid, Mitra]. Rangha-yi asli; zindigi khususi Bill Kelinton [title]. Tiuran: Nashr-i Alburz, 1997. 577 p.; 22 cm. [Czech] Anonymous [Joe Klein] [translated by Veis, Jaroslav]. Barvy moci: roman o politice [title]. Praha: Prostor, 1996. 412 p.; 21 cm. [French] Anonymous [Joe Klein] [translated by Champon, Alexis]. Couleurs Primaires [title]. Paris: Pockets, 1996, 1998. 415 p.; 18 cm. [Italian] Anonymous [Joe Klein] [translated by Duranti, Letizia Olivieri]. Colori primari [title]. Milano: Garzanti, 2000. 441 p.; 19 cm. [Spanish] Klein, Joe. Colores Primarios: Una Novela Politica. Alfaguara, Ediciones, S.A.; Grupo Santillana, 2000.
14 Serialization? If serialized, give standard bibliographic information for serial publication. If none, enter N/A
N/A
15 Sequels/Prequels? Give standard bibliographic information for each. If none, enter N/A
Prequel: Klein, Joe. The Running Mate: a novel. New York: Dial Press, 2000. 403 p.; 25 cm. Sequel: Klein, Joe. The Natural: the misunderstood presidency of Bill Clinton. New York: Doubleday, 2002. 230 p.; 24 cm.
Assignment 3: Biographical Sketch of the Author
1 Paste your biographical sketch here (maximum 500 words)
On July 17, 1996, seven months after the publication of his best-selling political novel, Primary Colors, Joseph Klein revealed himself as the anonymous author of the book that caused a worldwide frenzy over the identity of the political insider. Drooling over information and frustrated by failed detective work, the press began implementing techniques more scientific than speculation a week before the New Hampshire primaries in 1996. New York magazine hired a Vassar University professor to analyze the novel's style in hopes of finding a match. Klein's style was identical despite his previous denial of authorship. In July 1996, a Washington Post article concurred with the results of the style examination when they analyzed handwriting on a corrected manuscript copy and published the results. Soon after, Klein called a press conference and officially declared himself the author (Contemporary Authors database). Klein was born a United States citizen in New York on September 7, 1946 to Malcolm and Miriam Klein. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1968 with a degree in American civilization and began his journalism career in 1969 as a reporter with the Beverly/Peabody Times in Beverly, Massachusetts (Royce Carlton Incorporated, p. 3). In 1972 Klein expanded to broadcast media as a reporter for WGBH-TV in Boston while he was simultaneously a news editor at the Real Paper in Boston. In 1974 Klein took an associate editor position with Rolling Stone in New York City, where he remained until 1978, serving as the Washington bureau chief from 1974 to 1976. He began free-lance writing for television and magazines in 1978 (Contemporary Authors database). From 1987 to 1992, Klein was a political columnist at New York magazine where he won a number of awards. He began consulting and commentating on American politics for CBS-TV and other various broadcasts in 1992 until July 1997 (Royce Carlton Incorporated, p. 3). Prior to his current position as a columnist at the New Yorker, since December 1996, Klein was a political reporter and columnist with Newsweek, where his reporting helped the magazine earn a National Magazine Award for Single-Topic Issue on Clinton's 1992 victory. Klein joined Newsweek in 1992 during Clinton's campaign and addressed national and international affairs in his column entitled, "Public Lives" (Royce Carlton Incorporated). At the New Yorker, he began as the Washington correspondent, but is now a Writer at Large, addressing events in Washington and abroad. He currently resides with his second wife and two children in Westchester County, New York. He has two adult sons with his first wife, who he divorced in 1975 (Royce Carlton Incorporated). Klein has published six books, four non-fiction and two fiction. The non-fiction works, Woody Guthrie: A Life, Payback: Five Marines after Vietnam, Questions from Dad: A Very Cool Way to Communicate with Kids, and The Natural: The Misunderstood Presidency of Bill Clinton, were published in 1980, 1984, 1994, and 2002 respectively. The two fiction novels, Primary Colors and The Running Mate, were published in 1996 and 2000 respectively (Contemporary Authors database). Many questioned Klein's status as an ethical and credible journalist after he denied allegations of writing Primary Colors only to admit himself the author just months later. Kevin Smith, a reporter and chair of the ethics committee for the Society of Professional Journalists, said in a New York Times article that it was wrong for Klein to believe he could shed his identity as a journalist and create a work of fiction. Others have associated Klein's deceit to Janet Cooke, a Washington Post reporter who was striped of a Pulitzer Prize after the paper discovered she invented a child heroin addict who appeared in her story. Smith said, "You should never give up your obligation to deal truthfully with people, whether you are working on a story or in your personal life." In the same article, Klein responded, "I think I have an obligation to be truthful in all matters that relate to my role as a columnist for Newsweek or as a commentator for CBS and I think that I have been. . .I also had an obligation to [Primary Colors publisher] Random House and to myself and to the integrity of this project" (Contemporary Authors database).
Assignment 4: Reception History
1 Paste contemporary reception history in here (maximum 500 words)
The mystery surrounding the anonymous author of Primary Colors, who could be narrowed down to fewer than 50 political insiders, triggered an explosion of media response in the months immediately following publication. The merits of the text itself were drowned in the mass hysteria created by the eerie accuracy of the book's intimate campaign details. Described by Sandra Lee, of the Daily Telegraph, as "one of the greatest stunts in recent American publishing history" (10), she sums up the novel's appeal by continuing, "the stunt was anonymity and with it came gossip and the race inside the worlds of politics and publishing to be cleverer than Anonymous by unmasking him/her to discover just how close he/she was to the heart of the Clinton campaign" (10)" Even the novel's reviewers were obsessed with the author's identity. Paul Quinn-Judge, of the Boston Globe, points out that as few as two weeks after its release, Primary Colors was already the subject of more than 200 articles. Reviewers worldwide devoted much of their articles to speculation about the possible author. "So who did it?" wrote Michael Lewis in his article published January 19, 1996 New York Times Book Review. He further guesses, "White, male, young, extremely observant, gifted with the language, a bit tortured and conflicted but not so much that he is unable to pursue his ambition. Above all he was very close to the campaign. Possibly a journalist, but if so one with unusual access to insiders. More likely an insider himself." The guessing game continued through July 1996, fueled by daily media coverage. After the beginning of February, the book itself was no longer the subject of attention, rather, the elusive identity of the author. Articles between February and July 1996 offer speculation about possible candidates using gambling odds, writing analysis, and many other technical and non-technical means of narrowing the field. Reviewers of the novel connect Anonymous's Jack Stanton, the fictitious southern governor on the presidential campaign train in 1992, and Bill Clinton. They point out that readers derive pleasure from associating the characters with their real life counterparts. Many critics acknowledge the untraditional reversal of fiction achieved by clearly connecting his story with the 1992 presidential campaign and basing it on Robert Penn Warren's classic political novel, All the Kings Men, while leaving his identity unknown. "The result is a clever, fizzy book that engages our attention the same way a Warhol painting of Marilyn Monroe or Elizabeth Taylor does: it masquerades as a copy of real life while colorizing reality and winking at its impersonation" (C), said Michiko Kakutani in his January 19, 1996 New York Times article. The sparse commentary on the text itself, much more plentiful in the early days of publication, generally praise the text. Most reviewers say that the novel is well written, entertaining, and astute. Kakutani said in the same article, "to be sure, Primary Colors gives the reader an entertaining, inside and often very funny look at the daily workings of a political campaign" (C). Critics often pointed out how the novel provides a brilliantly fresh look at Clinton, the 1992 campaign, and U.S. politics in general. "There is a wonderful honesty about it," Lewis said, "a refusal to give in to the conventional interpretation of people and events that cripples so much that is written about politics." There were three main tidal waves of press attention surrounding the novel: the release, the May 19, 1996 article in New York Magazine written by Anonymous about his choice to remain anonymous, and the Washington Post's disclosure of the author, Joe Klein, on July 17, 1996. As mentioned, the release saw positive feedback and insatiable curiosity. The anonymous magazine article fueled further speculation. The discovery of the author's identity led to harsh criticism of Klein's blatant fraudulence and a questioning of his journalistic ethics. "Is Mr. Klein somehow morally or ethically at fault for not only denying authorship but also going out of his way to deny it? And what is the ethical position of Newsweek, whose editor, Maynard Parker, was in on the secret from the start and not only kept it out of his magazine, but also kept one of his own reporters in the dark when that reporter wrote one of Newsweek's few brief pieces on the year's most delicious literary mystery" (D)? Iver Peterson, of The New York Times, answered, "How much the answers to these questions matter seems to depend in part on how close to the journalism profession the speaker stands." Many editorials and articles following Klein's admission of guilt note that while many lay readers and politicians were merely amused, most journalists felt the sharpest negative reaction. "Journalists think of themselves as a fraternity," said Suzanne Braun Levine, editor of the Columbia Journalism Review, in Peterson's article. "And that journalists are straight with each other even if nobody is straight with them. They are extremely sensitive to being criticized or being duped. And what could be worse than being duped by one of your own" (D)? But many of the characters Klein satires lashed out against the deceitful journalist. Paul Begala, Clinton's 1992 campaign consultant, said "This was a breathtaking act of mendacity" (A) in David Streitfeld's July 18, 1996 Washington Post article. In the same article, Begala's partner, James Carville said, "Am I surprised that Joe Klein lied about writing this book? No, because in my opinion, reporters lie all the time. This is not a good moment for journalism" (A). Former Clinton press secretary Dee Dee Myers told Streitfeld for the same article, "He looked his friends in the eye and he lied -- for money" (A). Despite the controversy surrounding the anonymous author and subsequent unveiling, Bill Nichols, of USA Today, sums up the general feeling towards this novel from the majority of media coverage I read: "Readers should ignore that mystery and just enjoy this novel for what it is: a deftly drawn, wonderfully knowing portrait of our national bloodsport -- politics" (5D).
2 Paste subsequent reception history in here (maximum 500 words)
The mystery surrounding the anonymous author of Primary Colors, who could be narrowed down to fewer than 50 political insiders, triggered an explosion of media response in the months immediately following publication. The merits of the text itself were drowned in the mass hysteria created by the eerie accuracy of the book's intimate campaign details. Described by Sandra Lee, of the Daily Telegraph, as "one of the greatest stunts in recent American publishing history" (10), she sums up the novel's appeal by continuing, "the stunt was anonymity and with it came gossip and the race inside the worlds of politics and publishing to be cleverer than Anonymous by unmasking him/her to discover just how close he/she was to the heart of the Clinton campaign" (10)" Even the novel's reviewers were obsessed with the author's identity. Paul Quinn-Judge, of the Boston Globe, points out that as few as two weeks after its release, Primary Colors was already the subject of more than 200 articles. Reviewers worldwide devoted much of their articles to speculation about the possible author. "So who did it?" wrote Michael Lewis in his article published January 19, 1996 New York Times Book Review. He further guesses, "White, male, young, extremely observant, gifted with the language, a bit tortured and conflicted but not so much that he is unable to pursue his ambition. Above all he was very close to the campaign. Possibly a journalist, but if so one with unusual access to insiders. More likely an insider himself." The guessing game continued through July 1996, fueled by daily media coverage. After the beginning of February, the book itself was no longer the subject of attention, rather, the elusive identity of the author. Articles between February and July 1996 offer speculation about possible candidates using gambling odds, writing analysis, and many other technical and non-technical means of narrowing the field. Reviewers of the novel connect Anonymous's Jack Stanton, the fictitious southern governor on the presidential campaign train in 1992, and Bill Clinton. They point out that readers derive pleasure from associating the characters with their real life counterparts. Many critics acknowledge the untraditional reversal of fiction achieved by clearly connecting his story with the 1992 presidential campaign and basing it on Robert Penn Warren's classic political novel, All the Kings Men, while leaving his identity unknown. "The result is a clever, fizzy book that engages our attention the same way a Warhol painting of Marilyn Monroe or Elizabeth Taylor does: it masquerades as a copy of real life while colorizing reality and winking at its impersonation" (C), said Michiko Kakutani in his January 19, 1996 New York Times article. The sparse commentary on the text itself, much more plentiful in the early days of publication, generally praise the text. Most reviewers say that the novel is well written, entertaining, and astute. Kakutani said in the same article, "to be sure, Primary Colors gives the reader an entertaining, inside and often very funny look at the daily workings of a political campaign" (C). Critics often pointed out how the novel provides a brilliantly fresh look at Clinton, the 1992 campaign, and U.S. politics in general. "There is a wonderful honesty about it," Lewis said, "a refusal to give in to the conventional interpretation of people and events that cripples so much that is written about politics." There were three main tidal waves of press attention surrounding the novel: the release, the May 19, 1996 article in New York Magazine written by Anonymous about his choice to remain anonymous, and the Washington Post's disclosure of the author, Joe Klein, on July 17, 1996. As mentioned, the release saw positive feedback and insatiable curiosity. The anonymous magazine article fueled further speculation. The discovery of the author's identity led to harsh criticism of Klein's blatant fraudulence and a questioning of his journalistic ethics. "Is Mr. Klein somehow morally or ethically at fault for not only denying authorship but also going out of his way to deny it? And what is the ethical position of Newsweek, whose editor, Maynard Parker, was in on the secret from the start and not only kept it out of his magazine, but also kept one of his own reporters in the dark when that reporter wrote one of Newsweek's few brief pieces on the year's most delicious literary mystery" (D)? Iver Peterson, of The New York Times, answered, "How much the answers to these questions matter seems to depend in part on how close to the journalism profession the speaker stands." Many editorials and articles following Klein's admission of guilt note that while many lay readers and politicians were merely amused, most journalists felt the sharpest negative reaction. "Journalists think of themselves as a fraternity," said Suzanne Braun Levine, editor of the Columbia Journalism Review, in Peterson's article. "And that journalists are straight with each other even if nobody is straight with them. They are extremely sensitive to being criticized or being duped. And what could be worse than being duped by one of your own" (D)? But many of the characters Klein satires lashed out against the deceitful journalist. Paul Begala, Clinton's 1992 campaign consultant, said "This was a breathtaking act of mendacity" (A) in David Streitfeld's July 18, 1996 Washington Post article. In the same article, Begala's partner, James Carville said, "Am I surprised that Joe Klein lied about writing this book? No, because in my opinion, reporters lie all the time. This is not a good moment for journalism" (A). Former Clinton press secretary Dee Dee Myers told Streitfeld for the same article, "He looked his friends in the eye and he lied -- for money" (A). Despite the controversy surrounding the anonymous author and subsequent unveiling, Bill Nichols, of USA Today, sums up the general feeling towards this novel from the majority of media coverage I read: "Readers should ignore that mystery and just enjoy this novel for what it is: a deftly drawn, wonderfully knowing portrait of our national bloodsport -- politics" (5D).
Assignment 5: Critical Analysis
1 Paste your critical analysis in here (maximum 2500 words)
The inside information Primary Colors makes available to the general public, the timeliness of the novel's release (10 months before Clinton was up for reelection), and the anonymous author who was obviously very close to the campaign rendered the political satire the sixth best-selling book of 1996. Primary Colors thus found success by scandal. Although the text itself was well reviewed, the primary element of interest in this political satire was the voyeuristic look into the Clinton's personal life the author privies and the game of identification the author ignited. Like Salmon Rushdie's The Satanic Verses and Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer, Primary Colors sold millions of copies thanks to the intense media hype surrounding a provocative element separate from the text itself ? in this case the anonymous author. Bryan Maxwell aptly describes, in his entry on The Satanic Verses, this type of bestseller as "an example of the class of best-selling novels that are not bestsellers because of anything that involves the actual text of the book, but rather because of publicity from other origins." Primary Colors reads quickly and easily, carefully grounded by Henry Burton's levelheaded narration. The former congressional aide, who takes a job on southern governor Jack Stanton's presidential campaign staff, learns about modern American electoral politics along with the reader. The narrator admits, "In two months I'd learned more from [Stanton] about the public sector ? the people's business ? than I had in five years with Larkin" (33). The author thereby makes the reader feel comfortable reading this insiders glimpse at politics. Burton conveys a sense of naivety that the lay reader identifies with and the adept politician remembers. Burton expresses simple sentiments felt by even the uneducated public. He tells Susan Stanton that he wants to be a part of her husband's campaign because, "I'd kind of like to know how it feels when you're fighting over . . . y'know ? historic stuff. I'm not like you. I didn't have Kennedy. I've never heard a president use words like ?destiny' or ?sacrifice' and it wasn't bullshit. So: I want to be part of something, a moment, like that" (24). Burton uses reasoning average Americans understand. Burton's outrage at some of Stanton's moral decisions validifies the narrator. The reader grows with Burton as he learns that his boss is not the hero he once thought, but heroic enough to change America for the better. Primary Colors is a novel written for the public about the very private world of political campaigning ? it is a straightforward journey into a very complicated world. The novel is bereft of complicated political jargon that might intimidate political outsiders. The novel's accessibility paves the way for its wide scale appeal. The loosely-based-on-reality campaign scandals that make the novel so entertaining are available to anyone. Klein allows the average citizen to voyeuristically view the President in his natural environment. Stanton constantly eats. He womanizes. He frequently takes orders from his wife. Like the reality television that continues to captivate the nation, Primary Colors humanizes one of the most powerful men in the world. Reading the staffers behind-the-scene response to Stanton's first debate is much more intriguing than the debate itself. "The wise thing for Stanton to do would have been to stay down, let them kill each other. But he jumped in" (79), narrates Burton. He teaches the reader political strategy while critiquing Stanton's performance. "Okay. Not bad. But shut up" (79), his ongoing commentary reveals a side of politics the layperson does not see. The reader thus feels privileged at his newfound inside knowledge. This knowledge is perhaps the most compelling reason that Primary Colors sold so many copies. The novel fed gossip hungry Americans intimate details formerly known only to the President's small circle of staff, family, and friends. The information goes above and beyond what newspapers reported because the guise of fiction permits embellishment. America yearns to know the truth behind the outrageous rumors about important politicians ? Klein serves it on a silver platter. For example, the reader feels a satisfying outrage when he learns that Stanton used one of his aide's blood for his paternity test. Events like that reassure the reader's cynicism. Primary Colors gives the reader something even newspapers cannot, the complete story. The stunt of anonymity was the other main reason the novel quickly climbed to the top of bestseller charts. "It's the only secret I've seen kept in Washington in three years" (F01), Clinton said of the author's identity in Joel Garreau's Washington Post article. The media and political insiders made an incessant campaign to sift out the culprit. Countless article carefully sorted through possible suspects and pointed fingers. Investigators from various industries revealed the methods of their personal search. Marc Fisher's Washington Post article descries one method. "Mark Halperin, an ABC News producer who covered Clinton's first campaign, has been in search of Anonymous since last summer, when he assembled a crack investigative squad consisting of Stephanopoulos, former Clinton campaign aide Mandy Grunwald, Matt Cooper of the New Republic, and Walter Shapiro of Time. All deny authorship. ?Stephanopoulos and I agreed if any one of us turns out to have any role in this, we'll call a press conference and renounce our faith in humanity,' said Halperin. So far, the squad has eliminated close to 90 suspects. Its technique is direct: Float a name, then select the member of the team who knows the suspect best to call him. Everyone they've called has denied writing the book" (C01). The search for the identity of Anonymous became much more than a conversation topic at cocktail parties. The Washington Post printed a list of possible subjects, complete with odds for each person (the true author, Joe Klein, was listed as 25-1). Several publications hired experts in the field of writing and handwriting analysis to propose a prime suspect (twice Klein was targeted). Just like other bestsellers in the "success by scandal" category, the media field day made the book well know and compelling. The time when the book was released is significant in two ways: the proximity to the 1996 presidential election and the prevalent culture. Details of Clinton's personal life have been in hot demand since he entered the spotlight. The fact that this real-life-canvas surfaced when Americans had the chance to oust him from office made this story particularly relevant and fascinating to readers. What sounds more interesting than an intimate glimpse at the seemingly untouchable President of the United States? The culture in which the novel was released turned out to be absolutely perfect. The media's insatiable curiosity virtually guaranteed press until the author was revealed. In a culture where secrets are few and far between, such a great act of deception was unimaginable, especially when the events described in the novel are so eerily accurate. Primary Colors embodies the media by using a journalists' inside account to strip the President of any personal information. Klein's use (and manipulation) of his journalistic background is significant because he is trained to unearth a story and tell it in the most captivating way possible ? in this case the best and only way to tell this story was through fiction. At the same time, Klein provides a stark glimpse into the world of journalism. In the novel, the author refers to reporters as "scorps," short for "scorpions," I believe. The author draws an interesting dynamic between the campaign staff and the press. Burden and other staff members live in fear of the press. Reporters are at once their best friend and greatest foe. Although Klein never explicitly examines the relationship, a conversation after the first primary implies the subtle tension that exists. "We dashed to the spin room, another loftlike contrivance one floor down, with rows of long tables and a press podium. Me, Sporken and Laurene Robinson triangulated and began working the room. We were very cool. It was a good night. It was fine. A good, substantive debate on all sides. We were satisfied. Even Sporken knew enough not to launch a ?Great! Great!' barrage. Losers spin; winners grin. . .I looked away and caught Laurene's eye. Something was wrong. She needed help. The question was how to get over to her side of the room without bringing along my swarm of scorps" (79). The staff "dashed" to speak with the press, showing an urgency and desire to be heard. Klein details the carefully crafted finesse with which the staff "works the room." When Burden senses Laurene's trouble, he immediately realizes that he needs to help. But he is forced with reality of how to tactfully ditch his reporters first. The reader can sense the staff's desire to make a good impression with the press while simultaneously being seriously annoyed by them. This critique of the modern media rounds out Klein's satire and leaves nobody unscathed. As Martin Walker says in his Washington Post article, Klein "fulfilled a mission, making the best possible argument for the Clinton presidency. The novel is a statement of loyalty to a charming rogue with the ruthless skills required to win, but justified by a heart big enough to make the victory worthwhile" (Book World). Klein's first work of fiction brought about such response because it presented a mystery, but it also solves a mystery. Klein resolves the Clinton paradox, and that is reason enough to buy the book. Although Primary Colors can be lumped into two bestseller categories, success by scandal and first time author, the magic was really in the formula. The combination of timing, secrecy, and gossip made Primary Colors a riveting success.
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