There’s currently a copy of Great American Novelist Jonathan Franzen’s new masterpiece Freedom in The L’s offices, even though it officially goes on sale August 31, because that’s what publishers do, they send books to people who’ll review them (or who might be interested in reviewing the book once they see it; or who have ever reviewed any book, ever; or who have a mailing address the publisher has acquired). (You can look forward to our review in mid-to-late September.) Somewhere out there, you can probably buy a “used” advance copy, or galley, that some enterprising editor has already flipped. If you know someone who works at a bookstore, you can probably ask real nice for one of the copies they have in boxes in the basement.
Or maybe they’ll just force it into your hands, because you’re the president!
Earlier this week, it was reported, and remarked-upon, that Barack Obama had bought the new Franzen in Cape Cod, where he’s on vacation, because Jesus Christ fucking August. He got the book because “booksellers handed him an advance readers copy,” according to the Times, who are now forced to report on the fact that everyone is apparently confused and agitated because the president already got to buy read the hot new literary novel and they didn’t (he also has to deal with Congress, and a fifth of the country that thinks he’s a Muslim, so this seems a fair trade-off):
Media organizations quickly reported that Mr. Obama had bought a copy, sending off alarm bells (and their modern counterparts, Google news alerts) at Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Mr. Franzen’s publisher, whose spokesman, Jeff Seroy, quickly contacted reporters to correct the record. CBSnews.com updated its story, implying that the White House had provided incorrect information.
It might have been too late. Other bookstores, believing that Bunch of Grapes [in Cape Cod] had broken the embargo, threatened to sell the book early. Rumors swirled that Farrar, Straus would move up the on-sale date. Eager readers who saw that Mr. Obama had the book in hand tried to get their own copies, only to be told that it wasn’t on sale yet. “People are confused,” said Jake Cumsky-Whitlock, a manager at Kramerbooks in Washington, who personally fielded a handful of requests for the book on Sunday. “One gentleman was somewhat indignant. He was sure that we were wrong.”
… Mr. Seroy of Farrar, Straus said that for now the publisher was sticking to the plan to publish Aug. 31 despite the fact that a torrent of reviews and articles have been written about the book, leaving the public with the impression that it is already for sale.
This is, of course, hardly the first time in which the President has boosted the mainstream profile of a prominent literary novel.