Tomorrow, with great fanfare, Hillary Clinton's Hard Choices drops at a book retailer near you. Partisans have already lined up to debate whether the 656-page tome is worth reading or not.
From its characterization as a "newsless snore" to its nominally juicy tidbits to its parsing of relevant policy from Bowe Bergdahl to Benghazi to Syria, it's not earth-shattering to submit that Hard Choices is being considered almost exclusively by its non-literary qualities. What, pray tell, are the non-literary qualities of the book?
Well, first we must acknowledge that this is a book inasmuch as George W. Bush's portraits, based on top Google search images, are art. Or as Mark Leibovich predicted last month, Hard Choices will enter "the expanding political subgenre of Inoffensively Clichéd and Calculated Titles Composed of Inoffensive Clichés and Calculations."
In other words, he concludes, "the most engaging political memoirs are written by those who are ending their political careers." Despite all this, it's difficult to argue that this book is without its implications.
So what are we to make of the most-boring-yet-the-most-important in the world?
First, ask someone who might be biased:
Hard Choices is far from boring. It's filled with insider detail about the most important foreign policy decisions of Obama's first term.— Tommy Vietor (@TVietor08) June 9, 2014
Next, think about what's actually an interesting or insightful thing to learn about a politician:
Condi asked Hillary a favor: keep on her State Dept chauffeur. Hillary obliged: http://t.co/6YVAQVYSW5— Michael Barbaro (@mikiebarb) June 5, 2014
think about what it means if this counts as a Hard Choices tidbit: Clinton kept Condoleezza Rice's driver. http://t.co/oWYyAq6zGG— Edward-Isaac Dovere (@IsaacDovere) June 6, 2014
Then, there's the idea that the Hard Choices book tour, depending on how certain Clinton is about 2016, is either a warm-up or a bellwether. Or it's simply a chance for the Clinton Machine to collect all kinds of information about the book's buyers. As Todd Purdum writes, the rollout of Hard Choices "presents a perfect way to gather priceless retail consumer data that can later be put to political use."
Ultimately, the sideshow about Hard Choices is the main course. Evidence of the whole debate got a little meta after Isaac Chotiner offered a review of Michiko Kakutani's Times review, which he dubbed "a press release."
While the piece offers the reader absolutely no information about the book's virtues or its author, it does provide a good lesson in how not to write a review."
Who wouldn't want to read something like that? Then again, who would?