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Publishing Update

Anonymous Who?

Publishing Update Written by Kathy Casper

Primary Colors, the new novel published by Random House, certainly has stirred up the best brouhaha since the "Who Shot J.R." mystery a number of years ago on the television program, Dallas.

The book is reputed to be a broad (no pun intended) fictionalization of the 1992 Clinton presidential campaign. Many of the characters and events in the book bear a striking resemblance to those involved in Clinton's run for the presidency four years ago. Who wrote Primary Colors? Well, the author is "Anonymous", and therein lies the rub.

All of Washington is abuzz with rumors, speculation and discussion. Across the nation, talk-show programs, newspapers, magazines and political pundits are beating the question to death. Everyone is getting caught up in the sideshow frenzy to discover the identity of "Anonymous".

The Usenet newsgroups are having a field day with it. They have pointed the finger at everyone from Bill Clinton, himself, or Hillary, to high ranking Clinton campaign honchos, to media moguls and their spouses. Even Socks the Cat has not escaped scrutiny!

Doonesbury cartoonist, Garry Trudeau, is a popular candidate, along with George Stephanopoulas, Bill Watterson, and a host of others too numerous to mention.

Discussions are also ongoing about who the characters in the book represent. Lists of suspects are flourishing, as the mystery unfolds.

Who wrote Primary Colors, and why does the author insist on remaining nameless? Why would any author choose to remain nameless?

Several explanations come to mind. First, although this is fiction (tongue planted firmly in cheek!), the author may fear retribution for exposing the truth. Or, if it truly is fiction, perhaps the author fears being accused of libel.

Either way, publishing anything anonymously strikes me as a rather cowardly act, motivated by fear. Perhaps the author's intent is to be sarcastic. It does make the sing-song statement, "I know something you don't know." Who can resist such a ploy?

Why did the author not use a pseudonym, a "pen name"? Somehow, a political slingshot such as this just wouldn't pack the same punch, under the name of "Henry Johnson", or "Martha Murphy". On the other hand, "Anonymous" has an innocent, hands-in-my-pockets-whistling, ring to it. People sign hate letters with the name, "Anonymous". They write pornographic tales anonymously. Passion. Intrigue. No, the name "Anonymous" has just the right bite to really grab the reader's imagination. A pseudonym just wouldn't do, because the author needed more than to just conceal his or her identity. The author needed to sell books.

The timing couldn't be better. The controversy about who is who in the book, and the even bigger mystery of who wrote it, puts the 1992 election campaign into a whole new perspective. Instead of examining documented evidence, reliable reports, and verified facts, we are all focused on the carnival atmosphere of Primary Colors. We're having fun with it!

To me, the timing and publication of this book as an anonymous work has even more sinister ramifications. It conveys a subliminal message to and about our society. Its subtle statement is that accountability has lost its luster as a value for this country. It says that the lack of accountability has become something we should not only accept, but embrace. As we chuckle about the success of this book and its anonymous author, we are affirming that message.

Sources say the book contract was in the range of $200,000, and I read recently that the movie rights have been sold for a cool million. Not a bad haul for Anonymous to spend anonymously, wouldn't you say?

If an anonymous author can achieve fame and fortune by whistling innocently, stuffing his hands in his pockets, and still move on with his life unscathed, unknown, and unaccountable, what about the rest of us? Too bad we can't all be anonymous...or maybe that's the direction in which we are being led.

Already, we have become a blaming society - workers blame management, management blames the executives, the executives blame boards of directors, the boards blame the stockholders, and the stockholders blame the workers. It's a vicious circle which permeates the workplace, our educational system and our government. If we all had the luxury of being anonymous, who would we blame?

Will the author of Primary Colors ever reveal his or her true identity? I hope so. I am just as curious as anyone else. But, more than learning who Anonymous is, I would like to know why.

An audio version of Primary Colors is available for purchase at The Storyteller Audio Bookstore, and if you would like to participate in the newsgroups discussions, here are some starting points:

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