‘A Warning,’ by Anonymous, Cracks the Best-Seller List
As marketing strategies go, it’s a chancy one: Gin up excitement for a book by declining to name the author. It worked for “Primary Colors,” a best-selling, critically acclaimed novel about Bill Clinton’s 1992 run for the White House (later revealed to have been written by the journalist Joe Klein).
Secrecy did not work so well for “O: A Presidential Novel,” a peek inside Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign. “The author of ‘O’ is described on the book flap as someone who ‘has been in the room with Barack Obama,’” Michiko Kakutani wrote in her Times review, “but given this novel’s many inane implausibilities, the reader can’t help but think that the writer was either a lousy observer or that the room was really enormous — a hotel ballroom, perhaps, or maybe a convention center.”
Entering the nonfiction list at No. 1 this week is “A Warning,” a White House memoir by Anonymous, who is identified only as “a senior Trump administration official” who wrote a Times Op-Ed last year called “I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration.”
There has been plenty of speculation about who Anonymous really is. The book reviewers Carlos Lozada and Jennifer Szalai recently posted details from “A Warning” on social media that they said might help unmask the author. “Based on metaphors in the book, Anonymous is a sports fan. Uses football imagery,” Lozada tweeted. “Also, there is this sentence: ‘Decisions that had previously been teed up carefully for the president … are now being shanked into the rough.’ Only a golfer would write that.” He noted that Anonymous “sounds like a Gen Xer to me,” citing references to games like Battleship, Etch-A-Sketch and Twister, and added, “Anonymous refers to former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis as ‘Jim’ and former natsec adviser H.R. McMaster as ‘H.R.’ The casual formulation makes me think the author dealt with both men but does not show the institutional deference of someone who served in uniform.”
In the introduction to “A Warning,” Anonymous says he — or she — may come clean at some point, but for now, “removing my identity from the equation” deprives the president “of an opportunity to create a distraction. … If asked, I will strenuously deny that I am the author of this book.”
“We’re way past the point of being coy,” Joe Klein recently told The Times. “We need to stand up and be counted. This is probably not the time for anonymity.”