"In 1995, Barack Obama published a book. He was 33 years old, a recent law school graduate, and the book, Dreams From My Father, received favorable reviews from The New York Times and others. It is a memoir, earnest, soul-searching and even-handed.
Reportedly, at the time that he was writing it, Obama had begun to speak to friends about the possibility of entering politics, but it's difficult to detect an aspirant to national office in the pages of Dreams From My Father. For one thing, the entire book revolves around issues of race - a topic that Obama spent this year avoiding until the Rev. Jeremiah Wright forced the matter. Dreams From My Father sold about 8,000 copies and then fell from sight, which may sound a little dismal but is pretty typical for a literary book.
After Illinois elected Obama to the Senate in 2004, he wrote a second book, The Audacity of Hope. Although politicians "write" books all the time, such books are almost always ghostwritten by others. Obama, however, is known for writing The Audacity of Hope himself. Moreover, he began Dreams From My Father years before he ran for office. In other words, he was a writer first, then a politician.
Most politicians have a simple reason for employing ghostwriters: Writing a good book is hard. In fact, I will tell you: Merely writing a halfway-decent, mostly readable book is hard. It requires a certain mind-set to pursue a single topic through hundreds of pages, and to do it well demands skills that are difficult to learn and require ongoing practice. It also takes a great deal of time.
I'd like to suggest that the fact that Obama is a writer - not just a typer of e-mails and compiler of legal briefs but a writer of literary quality with the ability to craft compelling narrative and interrogate his own feelings on the page - tells us some things about him that are worth considering as he competes for the presidency. These ideas flow from a few simple observations about writers generally."
Click here to read the whole piece. This is certainly food for thought. As a side note, do online newspaper readers actually read what they're commenting on?