The Making of the Autobiography of George W. Bush (an Excerpt).
Date: June 12, 2002
It is an honor to be chosen as the ghostwriter for The “W” Stands for Winner. I have great experience with this kind of book, and I guarantee you’ll be happy with it. I’ll do the writing, but it will be your autobiography. I haven’t found the reference text you recommended—Word Power for Greater Authority—but I’m sure it’s a helpful resource.
I like your idea of starting with your marriage and skipping the unsavory business. I’d never thought about the discrimination that fraternity brothers endure, but you make a powerful case for it. Nevertheless, you may be right in thinking that it’s an argument too complicated for your book—perhaps for any book. Since you’re attached to it, for chapter 1 we’ll use the working title “Finding His First Lady.” We may have to change it later.
I like my clients to complete simple exercises that help me create a tone. To start, I’d like you to create a metaphorical sense of yourself back when you and Laura were first thinking about marriage. Describe yourself but use figurative language. These metaphors do not have to be fancy or literary. For example, one of my clients wrote that a girl he dated in high school had “a cautious way of walking, as if someone might steal the earth from beneath her feet.” This is just a variation on the old cliché about jerking the rug from beneath one’s feet, but see how suggestive it is?
I’ll look for your response.
Date: June 13, 2002
Subject: Word Power
Whoever would of thought writing could be so hard! I don’t know about either the commas or the punctuation but here it is. I got a little crazy. I just cut loose. Here goes.
I was straight as a bow and arrow.
I was a good egg but a tough nut to crack.
I was a brick but with a heart of gold.
Sure I was a loose cannon but my wheels were always turning.
I had big huevos and liked to swing for the fences.
I kept my cards closed to my chest and danced to the other drummer.
I was the silt of the earth.
In short the cat’s meal.
How’s them apples?
Date: June 15, 2002
Subject: useful beginning
Thank you, Mr. President, for that first exercise. It tells me more than you can know.
The second exercise for The “W” Stands for Winner (we may need to tweak that title) requires you to write a scene that shows you and Laura together as young people. From our initial conversation, I know that each of you had worries about the other early on. Perhaps you could try to show this period of your courtship. Readers identify with leaders who have had personal difficulties much like their own. Be expansive.
Date: June 21, 2002
Subject: New Respect
This one kicked my heinie. It gives new respect to men and women who write books. I see now that it could take weeks and some people would throw in the towel long before they got there. But I worked at it whenever I could—all during Cops and West Wing and the cabinet briefing. While trying to think about that long time ago time I remembered one line Laura said to me word for word. Since memory doesn’t usually work in words I felt special about that one and used it. I couldn’t remember what I said back but I think the gist of it is got. Okay here goes.
They were an odd couple—Mutt and Jeff. Even oil and water. Little wonder things went from bad to worse.
Your spineless, she said.
Then you ought to get off my back, he countered.
Her tears fell like rainwater. Her one last hope hit a rough spot in the road.
You take me for granite, she said.
He thought maybe he did.
She said, My love is strong as that one bathroom tile cleaner you like, hard as a nine iron, bright as a three-way bulb on top wattage, deep as PBS, busy as a pollster, solid as a Detroit-made truck.
His blood ran cold. He was stuck between a truck and a hard place. He toyed with her reflections. Oh, yeah? he said.
Your my everything, she said right back. Her beehive of honey hair shook like a leaf. Her ample bosom heaved like a drunk.
His mouth turned dry as the Sarah desert. His eyes became moist as towelettes. His heart in his throat throbbed like a headache and shook him until his teeth rattled. He girded his loins and rolled the dice.
We’ve never had sex, he explained. We’re like two swans that also never had sex.
They jumped in the sack. They ran the gambit. Whipped into a frenzy they met each other halfway. She spread the word wide as a door. He buried his pride up to her chin. They made the beast with two backs and tossed it a bone. They burned their bridges and smoked like chimneys. He ate crow until the cows came home and then held his tongue—tenderly like a young mother with a young baby.
In the end like a fish out of water his heart melted. She had got herself completely under his skin. No man is an island. Wild horses couldn’t drag him away. He tended her knitting. He licked her wounds. She cooked his goose.
The part I like best is the no man is an island which I really believe. The one thing I’ve learned as president is that even if your all you hoped to be your still one foot in front of the other if you want to get anywhere. Or if its an actual island then rowing.
Date: June 28, 2002
Subject: new strategy
Thank you, Mr. President, for your response, and please excuse my tardy reply. I’ve had so many things to think about. Originally, I was going to be a playwright. (That’s someone who writes plays.) Have you ever seen Death of a Salesman? My parents took me to a production when I was twelve or so. It made me want to be a writer. Your scene about your early days has, in a roundabout way, encouraged me to think about my own early days as a writer. I never pictured myself in a role quite like this. I imagine you feel the same.
Would you like to tell me something about your ideas for chapter 2? I understand that you want to write about the births of your children. However, the title you suggest, “Procuring Posterity,” seems to have other implications.
I await your reply.
SUGGESTED READSPolitical Cartoon
by Paul Maliszewski (7/27/2000)
Understanding the Official Soundtrack of the Republican National Convention
by Brad Kloza (8/22/2000)
If Bush’s Speech Had Rocked as Hard as His Inauguration
by Wendy Molyneux (1/26/2005)
RECENTLYI Feel Like NPR Doesn’t Like My New Radio Show Idea
by Dan Kennedy (4/24/2015)
How to Find Love: Lessons from an Old Maid: Letter to Adults Who Are Also Having Zero Sex
by Connie Sun (4/24/2015)
Open Letters: An Open Letter to the Former Owner of My Queen-Size Bed
by Catherine Tung (4/24/2015)