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Bill Clinton My Life

DESPITE POOR REVIEWS, CLINTON BOOK SETS ONE-DAY, NON-FICTION SALES RECORD

By Antoine du Rocher


NEW YORK, 23 June 2004—In spite of less-than-enthusiastic reviews, first day sales for Bill Clinton's My Life exceeded 400,000 copies in the U.S., it was announced today by Sonny Mehta, president of the Knopf Publishing Group. The audiobook edition is also setting sales records, with 35,000 copies sold the first day. "This is a record-breaking number for a work of non-fiction," says Mehta. "Indeed, we are seeing exceedingly strong sales for My Life not only across the country but around the world."

Sales of the book have hardly been affected by early reviews, which have been poor. (Most notable among these was the devastating front-page review by Michiko Kakutani of the Sunday New York Times, which dismissed the book as "sloppy, self-indulgent and often eye-crossingly dull.") In fact, in light of the unprecedented demand from retailers, Knopf printed an additional 725,000 pre-publication copies of My Life beyond the initial print run of 1.5 million. Yet more printings are planned to meet continuing demand from retailers. 

Not surprisingly, much of the pre-publication media attention, including a television interview on the American network CBS's 60 Minutes, focused on Clinton's sexual indiscretion with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, and the subsequent reaction of his wife Hilary when he confessed to having lied about his affair. For all the hype surrounding the book, there was little in-depth assessment of the memoir in terms of Clinton's domestic record, such as attempts at health care reform or the economic boom of the 1990s, or American foreign policy, such as his efforts in the Middle East.

One can only speculate the effect the book will have on the presidential elections in the White House in November. Even at his most "eye-crossingly dull", Clinton is far more charasmatic and engaging than the rather hang dog candidate Kerry. More importantly, Clinton's claim to have warned Bush about Al-Qaeda as he was leaving office (http://news.scotsman.com/international) could remind the electorate of how the Republican administration dismissed the threat posed by Islamic fundamentalism that has since come to define the Bush presidency.

Antoine du Rocher is a French cultural journalist and writer based in New York. He is also a member of the editorial board of Culturekiosque.com.

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