Not since Lincoln has there been a president as fundamentally shaped — in his life, convictions and outlook on the world — by reading and writing as Barack Obama.
Mr. Obama taught himself to write as a young man by keeping a journal and writing short stories when he was a community organizer in Chicago — working on them after he came home from work and drawing upon the stories of the people he met. Many of the tales were about older people, and were informed by a sense of disappointment and loss: “There is not a lot of Jack Kerouac open-road, young kid on the make discovering stuff,” he says. “It’s more melancholy and reflective.”
Mr. Obama entered office as a writer, and he will soon return to a private life as a writer, planning to work on his memoirs, which will draw on journals he’s kept in the White House (“but not with the sort of discipline that I would have hoped for”). He has a writer’s sensibility — an ability to be in the moment while standing apart as an observer, a novelist’s eye and ear for detail, and a precise but elastic voice capable of moving easily between the lyrical and the vernacular and the profound.Read more...