If this seems like a stupidly obvious point, though, let's return to the uproar over "O." During most of its monthlong buildup, people had no idea whether this new novel was any good. And the early reviews suggest it wasn't worth the fuss.
Now that there's a precedent, though, the quality of "O" seems beside the point. And so does its novel-ness. Washington knows only one way to react to books, whether fiction or nonfiction, Bob Woodward's or George W. Bush's, and that's in the rummaging for details, the breaking of embargoes, the questing for something, anything, new. It works well when you're lining up a novel's possible authors but not when you're trying to draw a lesson — much less pleasure — from it.