Sunday, August 31, 2003
New York If you wanted to write a book about the books coming out this fall, you could call it "Liberals Fight Back."
"I think liberals are now responding with the aggressiveness they perceive in their adversaries," says Joe Conason, a columnist for The New York Observer and Salon.com and one of many on the left to have a book published this fall.
Accusing liberals of treason, immorality and countless other failings, conservatives such as Ann Coulter and Sean Hannity have proved to be so popular that two publishers, the Penguin Group and the Crown Publishing Group, recently formed imprints for right-wing books. The operators of the Book-of-the-Month Club have formed a new club just for conservative works.
Now, prepare for voices raised from the other side, among them Al Franken, who relentlessly needled Fox commentator Bill O'Reilly at last June's booksellers convention. Franken follows up in print form with "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right."
The book is already a best seller on Amazon.com, thanks largely to a Fox lawsuit over rights to "fair and balanced," a phrase the news channel trademarked. (On Aug. 22, a federal judge in New York denied a Fox request to block publication, calling the claim "wholly without merit.")
"Lies" will be an unofficial liberal trademark this fall, as demonstrated by the title of Franken's book, Conason's "Big Lies" and David Corn's "The Lies of George W. Bush." Just as praise for President Bush and allegations of liberal bias in the media have been standard for conservative books, liberals are questioning Bush's honesty and the honesty of the media's coverage.
"People who consider themselves left of center have been getting increasingly angry," says Corn, a correspondent for The Nation, a liberal magazine. "One reason is the strength of right-wing opinion in media culture and another is the Bush presidency has really gotten under the skin."
Those making similar points, although refraining from the "L" word on the cover, include Molly Ivins, Jim Hightower, Alan Colmes and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman. Gore Vidal, Michael Moore and Noam Chomsky, three popular authors to the left of Conason and other liberals, also have books coming out, as does Studs Terkel, who interviews aging activists in "Hope Dies Last."
"The books from the left strike me as an obvious reaction to Bush," says conservative commentator Tucker Carlson. "And for people who buy them, it's a way of voting against him in an off-election year."
Many books will be either by or about Democratic politicians. Several works commemorate the 40th anniversary of President Kennedy's assassination -- including a compilation of quotes and anecdotes, "The Uncommon Wisdom of John F. Kennedy," and a collection of rare photographs, "Remembering Jack," which includes an afterword by Tom Wolfe.
Among contemporary Democrats, presidential contenders John Edwards, John Kerry and Howard Dean will release books, as will Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle.
Strong sales are expected for two books by former Clinton officials: "Madame Secretary," the memoirs of former secretary of state Madeleine Albright; and "Dealing With an Uncertain World," reflections on finance from former treasury secretary Robert Rubin.
Conservatives also will have a publishing voice this fall, with new books from O'Reilly, Carlson, Robert Bork and David Limbaugh, brother of Rush. Former Rep. Dick Armey offers "Armey's Axioms" and Laura Ingraham urges Barbra Streisand and other liberal entertainers to "Shut Up and Sing." Nancy Reagan is profiled by former presidential aide Michael Deaver in "Nancy" and former first lady Barbara Bush describes her post-White House years in "Reflections."
"The interest in political books is just phenomenal, from the left and the right," says Bob Wietrak, vice president of merchandising at Barnes & Noble, Inc. "We've got so many coming out that in October we're setting up special political science-cultural affairs tables at our stores."