I’m 100 pages into the Bush memoir, and I’m loving it.
When I say this to my friends, this response usually follows: “Guess he had a good ghostwriter!” Or something like that.
I can’t discount the possibility that somebody helped Bush write the book (or the possibility that somebody wrote the book for Bush). But I sure haven’t seen the evidence. Nor, really, has anybody. It’s all speculation.
I can see where my friends are coming from. After all, Bush sure didn’t have the eloquence of Clinton or Obama. But books, my former editor Scott Dickensheets points out, are different than speeches:
“Speech is an improvisational act, unfolding in the moment. Writing is reflective; you have time to polish.”
(I should point out: I don’t know whether Scott has made up his mind about whether Bush wrote the memoir himself; Scott was speaking in general terms.)
Bush has had two years to write and polish Decision Points. And by all accounts—his own, especially—he’s spent a lot of time doing just that. So why's it so crazy to believe the book is significantly cleaner than Bush's speeches and debate performances?
I contacted linguist Geoffrey Nunberg and asked him these two questions:
Isn't it possible that somebody who speaks, uh, as Bush speaks, would be capable of writing a good book with clean prose?
Surely there are some precedents for this ... (clumsy speakers writing eloquent books...), right?
And here’s what Nunberg had to say:
I can't think of too many, but then Bush isn't alone. Most presidents had help—except Jimmy Carter; the question is, how much? Eisenhower was a much more fluent writer than a speaker, for example—you can tell this from his letters—but he apparently had some help on Crusade in Europe.
Maybe we can all agree on these two things:
1) It’s not a big deal if Bush got some help with this book. Most presidents get help.
2) We’ll never know how much help Bush got.
Agree or disagree, until more evidence comes out, I’m giving the guy the benefit of the doubt on this one. And, as Las Vegas Weekly’s book reviewer, I’m doing everything I can to evaluate the book and not the politics of the guy who wrote it.
And what about my upcoming book, Fool Me Once: Hustlers, Hookers, Headliners, and How Not to Get Screwed in Vegas? Who really wrote it?