'Why Obama Can’t Win' Author Defends Analysis

Historians in the News

Make room on the bookshelf — perhaps somewhere between “Dow 36,000” by Glassman and Hassett or “The End of History and the Last Man” by Fukuyama — for the unfortunately named “A Bound Man: Why We Are Excited About Obama and Why He Can’t Win” by Shelby Steele.

Many an author has come to incorrect conclusions, but only a few have had the courage to make a prediction in a title that could be directly contradicted.

Mr. Steele, a prolific author on racial issues in America and a fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, said he had had plenty of time to get used to the snickering about the title of his book, which was published late last year by the Free Press, part of Simon & Schuster, and officially contradicted last week.

“My feeling is that I stand by every word of the analysis — what is between the covers of the book,” he said in a telephone interview. “For the year I have had to apologize for the stupid, silly subtitle that was slapped on to the book.”

He made it clear that he was the one who slapped the subtitle onto the book — “in about 30 seconds” when Barack Obama was trailing Hillary Rodham Clinton by about 25 percentage points. But, he added, “subtitles are marketing devices — I hate them. I’ve always hated them.”

He said that for “White Guilt,” his book before “A Bound Man,” he tried not to have a subtitle, to no avail. In that case, Mr. Steele went with another provocative subtitle: “How Blacks and Whites Together Destroyed the Promise of the Civil Rights Era.”

The editor in chief of the Free Press, Dominick Anfuso, disputed the idea that there was overriding pressure to come up with the most extreme subtitle to sell books. “It is the handful of largely successful books that do that, and that gives the impression that is what we seek,” he said. What publishers want, he said, are “good titles and good subtitles. Subtitles can make best sellers, but they don’t have to be provocative to do that. It is a package. They go together.”...
Read entire article at NYT

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