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'A Presidential Novel' Hidden Behind Anonymity

by NPR Staff
Jan 24, 2011 (All Things Considered)

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A new novel gets an early start at forecasting the 2012 presidential election, but it won't be possible to check in with the author and see how his or her predictions are playing out. The book causing all the buzz, O: A Presidential Novel, will be published anonymously by Simon & Schuster — raising questions about the motivations for leaving the author's name off the cover.

"Readers, I think, are very interested in suspense, but usually within the pages, not as part of the marketing plan," host Michele Norris said in a conversation with Jonathan Karp, the editor of O, on All Things Considered.

The decision to publish the book without a name attached was a mutual one between himself and the author, according to Karp. Because the author will not conduct interviews, Norris spoke with Karp about the rationale for anonymous publication.

Both Karp and the author felt that publishing anonymously would allow for more creative freedom and also limit readers' preconceptions about the author and his or her political leanings.

"We didn't want people to approach the book with any kind of preconceptions about the author's ideology. We didn't want to lose half of the Republicans or half of the Democrats," Karp explains.

Another contributing factor in that decision was the possibility that readers would be interested in the book even without an author's name on the cover.

"It's more fun," Karp says, "and we think more people will be interested without knowing."

The novel's characters include O — the president — and his competitor; the people working for both campaigns; and the press. Noticeably absent from the book's content is a discussion about the groundbreaking racial dimensions of the Obama administration.

"You know, I have to tell you, that's the first time this particular question has come up," Karp said in response to being asked about the novel's avoidance of racial issues.

"Even in the editing of the novel, it's not something that I ever discussed with the author," Karp says. "There is a part of the book at the very beginning where O says that people will want change and his race is part of the change. That's how he, the fictional character, views it."

O questions how Obama will handle the 2012 election and whether he will be able to run on the same message of hope that he employed in the 2008 election, now that the public has seen the policies he has asserted over the past few years.

"To the author, the dramatic question is, in order to get re-elected, is President Obama going to have to be a different kind of candidate?" Karp explains.

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