So Hillary's memoir is out, and a breathless nation finally can read the answers to those red-hot questions we've all been dying to ask about the Clinton White House. What really went on behind closed doors during the national health-care debate? What was in those "confidential" e-mails that the Clintons exchanged over NATO's role in the Balkans conflict?
Inquiring minds want to know. But they also want to know what the former first lady and current junior U.S. senator from New York has to say about a possible 2008 presidential bid and a certain intern's dress that would never have made history if only it'd been sent to the cleaners on time.
Despite Hillary Rodham Clinton's widespread name recognition, several weeks of advance publicity, a Time magazine cover and a Barbara Walters prime-time special, it's an open question whether "Living History" will satisfy either "serious" readers or gossip mavens -- and justify the book's hefty $8-million advance and its 1-million-copy first press run.
"A concern is there's been so much focus on the aspect of the infidelities and how she [Hillary Clinton] reacted to them, and there's obviously much more to the book than that," says Nora Rawlinson, editor in chief of Publishers Weekly. "Are people who are attracted to the book because of the scandal aspect going to be disappointed because they find many other things in the book?"
The years when Bill Clinton bestrode the Oval Office already have produced a bumper crop of memoirs, including Monica Lewinsky's ghost-written "Monica's Story," James Carville's "Stickin': The Case for Loyalty," George Stephanopoulos' "All Too Human: A Political Education" and Sidney Blumenthal's "The Clinton Wars." Most of these have spent time, if briefly, on the New York Times' bestseller lists and, perhaps surprisingly, salaciousness didn't necessarily trump somber analysis at the cash register.
For example, Stephanopoulos' book spent 15 weeks on the charts, including five weeks at No. 1. By contrast, "Monica's Story" spent only six weeks on the list, also claiming the top position once. Socks, the former first feline, didn't make the list.
But the heavily choreographed aura of anticipation preceding the release of Hillary Clinton's book may not work in its favor. "It just seems ... it's such an orchestrated event that it loses any spontaneity, or at least the element of surprise," says Douglas Dutton, owner of Dutton's Brentwood Books.
Though Dutton says he's not much of a reader of White House memoirs, he liked "Blind Ambition" by former Nixon inner-circle member John Dean, and he's made it through "a good deal" of Blumenthal's book. As for "Living History," Dutton says, sales were "brisk" at his store. "But it's no 'Harry Potter.' "