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Liar, Liar, pants on fire
June 11, 2003 12:00 PM   Subscribe

Hilary Clinton is a liar. "'Living History' is a 562-page book. A work of that length would take an average writer perhaps four years to produce; a highly proficient writer might finish in two years, if working on nothing else. Clinton signed the contract to 'write' the book about two years ago. About the same time, she also was sworn in as a member of the United States Senate. ... So in the last two years Clinton has either been neglecting her duties as a United States Senator -- that is, violating her oath -- or she is claiming authorship of someone else's work." Such is the wisdom of Gregg Easterbrook, ESPN Page 2's Tuesday Morning Quarterback. The columns, during football season, combine incisive pigskin analysis with haiku, political commentary and -- ahem -- cheesecake photos.
posted by krewson (68 comments total)

 
And his speculation is based on what? All those book-writing statistics?
posted by agregoli at 12:05 PM on June 11, 2003


I guess people can't write before they get a contract... or have ghost writers.
posted by oninochuck at 12:12 PM on June 11, 2003


Im sure that the guy isnt serious. I mean, cmon now. Did he ever write a book?
posted by Keyser Soze at 12:14 PM on June 11, 2003


Ghost Rider! Ghost writer! Or, as GB Trudeau said, "Adjectives Will Cost You Extra."
posted by Shane at 12:14 PM on June 11, 2003


A work of that length [562-pages] would take an average writer perhaps four years to produce

562 pages * 300 words / (365 days * 4 years) = ~115 words a day

Umm, the hell? As a point of comparison, the quote from the FPP has 97 words. Only 18 more words and Easterbrook would be done for the day!

Bonus points for implying the concept of using ghostwriters is just another example of how the Clinton white house was a den of lies, lies, lies!!
posted by turaho at 12:16 PM on June 11, 2003


um, i think the point was more that people need to acknowledge the ghost writers. easterbrook notes john mccain did so.

and turaho, writing a book is like all other good writing. writing 115 good words a day is harder than a bunch of off-the-cuff words.

besides, when was the last time you worked 365 days straight?
posted by krewson at 12:18 PM on June 11, 2003


I'm sure G.W. will write his memoirs all by himself
posted by trbrts at 12:19 PM on June 11, 2003


What? A politician lying? Say it ain't so...
posted by Mark Doner at 12:22 PM on June 11, 2003


Ok, she's lying. Let's play a game. Please rank the following lies based their seriousness:
  1. "I did not have sexual relations with that woman."
  2. "I wrote this book, not that ghost writer."
  3. "We're going to bully the United Nations, ignore US historical precedents and blow off strong alliances to invade a country because of Al Qaeda, no, because they have WMDs, no, because they need liberating, no, because it was on the way to Iran."
  4. "A tax break for everyone!"
  5. "I'm a uniter, not a divider."
Sure, they all lie. Fine. But what are the effects of those lies?

Ok, I'm done.
posted by billder at 12:24 PM on June 11, 2003


this is not the first book H.C. has written. Is experience factored into the equation?
posted by archimago at 12:25 PM on June 11, 2003


Yeah right. I could probably write 50 pages a day if I really needed too. It wouldn't be properly edited, but if I was rich I could hire an editor.

Asimov wrote over 500 books in his lifetime. He was not 2000 years old when he died.

I've been working on a novel for quite some time, and it's mostly an issue of sitting down and getting started. I'll go on a roll where I'll write thousands of words a day for a couple days and then not do anything for a month.

Its entirely possible to do 'other things' like be a senator when you're not writing. It's not like all writers do is sit on a couch and contemplate when they aren't at the keyboard.
posted by delmoi at 12:28 PM on June 11, 2003


Easterbrook's just auditioning for a talk show job (maybe going after Michael Savage's timeslot after he finishes self-destructing?). Anyway, he failed the audition, since he wrote several hundred words including "Clinton" and "lied", but forgot to include "blowjob", which we all know is mandatory.

BTW, has Hillary ever actually DENIED having ghost writers, or just avoided admitting it?
posted by wendell at 12:29 PM on June 11, 2003


Stephen King = 2,000 words/day (to be rewritten later.)
(Also per On Writing, I believe.)
(Damn you, King, you writing machine!)
posted by Shane at 12:31 PM on June 11, 2003


B.S. I wrote a 170-page thesis in five days. Highly technical, very intricate. Sure, it burned me out big time, but it is possible. Could do 600 pages in a month.
posted by yesster at 12:31 PM on June 11, 2003


The presidential memoir that Bill Clinton said he liked the best was U.S. Grant's - as ghost written by Mark Twain.

Although the author's judgements are harsh, I think he's got his facts accurate in this case, and Hillary's contribution to the writing of her memoir may be the least of the 4 people involved.

Does that make her a liar? I don't think so.

But hey, cut the author a little slack - he's a sports writer - he's supposed to say stupid shit.
posted by Jos Bleau at 12:32 PM on June 11, 2003


besides, when was the last time you worked 365 days straight?

The beauty of turaho's equation, krewson, is that he presents an average. The average doesn't require that you work 365 days, it only requires that you meet that level per day when you consider all 365 days as a group.

The average seems a bit low, in my opinion, as my experience in creative writing says that writing an average of 115 words a day isn't that difficult. The most difficult thing about writing isn't putting the words down on the paper, it's coming up with them in the first place.

A fiction writer has it doubly difficult, as he/she must first conceive a vision, and then express that vision with engaging language. An autobiographical author (in Mrs. Clinton's case) need only recount the events of the past. Writing 115 words (on average) a day simply recounting events of the past doesn't appear that difficult at all, when you consider the prolific offerings we have even here on Metafilter, doing just that.
posted by thanotopsis at 12:32 PM on June 11, 2003


Here's an interesting article on the fine art of crediting ghostwriters, which mentions not only HRC's It Takes a Village, but Ronald Reagan's An American Life, of which he famously said "I hear it's a terrific book! One of these days I'm going to read it myself."

Krewson: point taken on not working 365 days straight, but when writing a memoir of dubious literary value and under the tutelage of a fancy-pants editor, I would think I could crank out at least 500 words a day, which would give me a 562 page work in less than a year (or a little more if I took weekends off). I'm not saying HRC didn't use a ghostwriter, but the claim that it would take someone four years to write that book is silly.
posted by turaho at 12:38 PM on June 11, 2003


What? A politician lying? Say it ain't so...

HAHAHAHAHA Very good. Add to that, a lying Clinton. Rare breed that they are. I cannot wait to see Chelsea wear white to her wedding.

All politicians lie. They wouldn't be politicians if they didn't, they would be saints.

Dear Santa, Would it be possible for you to prevent the numerous daily Hillary posts I foresee coming to Metafilter?
It would help a lot of people out. Really, it would.
Thanks
a3
posted by a3matrix at 12:39 PM on June 11, 2003


I see he also has a pop at Martha in amongst the spank shots.

...

Ahh, I get it, hot chicks good, powerfull women stoopid.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 12:51 PM on June 11, 2003


The presidential memoir that Bill Clinton said he liked the best was U.S. Grant's - as ghost written by Mark Twain.

I think the rumor that Twain wrote Grant's memoirs has been pretty thoroughly discredited (although Twain was instrumental in getting Grant's memoirs published). I found a U.S. Grant fan page that has some stuff about his memoirs and his friendship with Twain.
posted by maurice at 1:02 PM on June 11, 2003


if memory serves, i think i read that she had 3 ghost writers working on this. no big surprise. happens all the time. but did she credit them? i don't know.
posted by probablysteve at 1:02 PM on June 11, 2003


Krewson, thanks for posting. For those unfamiliar with Page 2, it is devoted to the lighter side of sports, but often spills over into entertainment and political humor.

It is interesting to note that Hillary also took credit for Buddy the Dog and Socks the Cat's book when it contained letters written by children and photographs that she most likely did not take. Barbara Bush at least gave credit to Millie for writing "Millie's Book."
posted by Frank Grimes at 1:02 PM on June 11, 2003


Obviously, Easterbrook is a hack trying to whoop it up with his hillary-hating readers.

I believe it would take four years to produce a 500+ page book that built a very complex edifice of intricate language connections (think Pynchon or DeLillo). However, that is more in line with high-quality literary fiction. It could take four years to produce a 500+ page history book, starting from scratch to do the source research, as well. Neither of these fall into the category of personal memoir of a well-documented era.

Once again, using the 300-words-per-page rule, if a news columnist (like easterbrook) writes 2000 word essays twice per week, that's almost 700 pages per year. And writing the column is not, in fact, a full time job, as columnists typically have other non-column-related duties. That Hillary Clinton could churn out enough material about herself for a 500+ page book in 2 years sounds about right.

Maybe she had a ghost writer, and maybe she didn't, but the page-output alone within this span of time is not inconceiveable for books whose focus is neither academic nor literary (cf. the rate at which Harry Potter books are produced).
posted by deanc at 1:03 PM on June 11, 2003


Yo, she probably just dictated it. Stick to sports, espn.
posted by DenOfSizer at 1:03 PM on June 11, 2003


Jesus, you people, Gregg Easterbook is not just a sports writer. He's only a freaking senior editor for The New Republic, a novelist, and Brookings Scholar.

And he's a damned clever and funny sports writer.

So back off.
posted by xmutex at 1:05 PM on June 11, 2003


gee krewson you'd think you would have attacked Elron Hubbard for not writing all those books after he was dead long before jumping on the Hillary bash bandwagon.
posted by MrLint at 1:07 PM on June 11, 2003


Political analysis + Clinton bashing from ESPN.

What's next? A NBA finals tv special with George Stephanopoulos? A Seymour Hersh investigative story in The New Yorker about corked bats in MLB?
posted by matteo at 1:08 PM on June 11, 2003


I wrote a 250-page dissertation in 6 weeks. Sure, I'd researched it pretty thoroughly before that, but Clinton didn't have to do that.
posted by MrMoonPie at 1:08 PM on June 11, 2003


Gregg Easterbrook is quite qualified to make political commentary.

But yeah I'd rather get my political analysis from MetaFilter.
posted by xmutex at 1:09 PM on June 11, 2003


taking shots at Hillary and Martha brings up a recently coined word that seems appropriate here. Easterbrook seems to be engaging in a bit of blondenfreude.

Honestly, I wish ESPN (dot go dot com) would keep politics off its pages. They barely do a good enough job making the bloated world of sports look interesting, let alone delving into a area where they are completely unqualified to judge. For example, there was a by-lined piece (nah, I'm not going to bother looking it up) last Satruday that blamed the somewhat poor crowd treatment of Serena Williams at the Roland Garros Women's Final on the current tension between France and the U.S.

Could I care less what an ESPN writer (Easterbrook's credentials notwithstanding) has to say at the intersection of politics and sport? No, I really couldn't.
posted by psmealey at 1:10 PM on June 11, 2003


I'm not sure if many of the commenters here actually read the article before popping off (a common mefi problem). Easterbrook's not knocking Hilary any more than anyone else, she just happens to have a book coming out now. His writing is most definitely not anti-intellectual, nor has it been historically anti-Clinton, nor any of the things several people here have chimed in with. Sigh.
posted by jonson at 1:10 PM on June 11, 2003


It would take him four years to write his own biography? Lazy ass.
posted by zaack at 1:11 PM on June 11, 2003


How small minded can one get as to worry about this sort of crap! After all, did Bill Bennet, the now former kindg of Morality, write his book? No. Did he say it was ghost written? No. The book was written and it was under her name and thus she takes the blame or the credit. To be so asinine as to whether she sat down and wrote the actual words is but an effort to toss cow turds once again byh some sorehead at a lady who is still among the brightest politicians we have, like her or not. Ps: George Simenon wrote a book every two weeks and at his death had over 500 to his credit.
posted by Postroad at 1:11 PM on June 11, 2003


I'd like to add my voice to those saying that his statistics on the length of time needed to write X number of pages are pulled completely out of his ass.
posted by GeekAnimator at 1:11 PM on June 11, 2003


Last year, I co-authored three books on robotics for a total of over 700 edited pages (~1200 draft pages) in English (not my native tongue), creating at least the same amount of figures and illustrations. During that time, I also held a job in mangement strategy consulting with very long hours. I did not have much of a life during all of it, although I did for example have the time to look for and buy a boat - a second hand boat that did require extra work to get it looking nice once again.

IOW, krewson is so full of it that he is leaking all over the place.
posted by magullo at 1:29 PM on June 11, 2003


Last year, I co-authored three books on robotics for a total of over 700 edited pages (~1200 draft pages) in English (not my native tongue), creating at least the same amount of figures and illustrations. During that time, I also held a job in management strategy consulting with very long hours. I did not have much of a life during all of it, although I did for example look for and bought a boat - a second hand boat that did require extra work to get it looking nice once again.

IOW, krewson is so full of it that he is leaking all over the place.
posted by magullo at 1:33 PM on June 11, 2003


psmealey, Politics (unfortunately) have been tied to sports since the ancient Olympics, so ESPN is not out of line for covering the political angle. Also see 1936 Olympics in Nazi Germany, US boycott of 1980 Olympics, World Cup Soccer, etc. and today on ESPN.com: Clinton defending Sosa, Virginia governor petitioning NCAA about conference realignment. Besides, this article was on ESPN Page 2. ESPN did separate the Easterbrook article from their regular sports coverage.
posted by Frank Grimes at 1:35 PM on June 11, 2003


Barbara Bush at least gave credit to Millie for writing "Millie's Book."

An obvious lie for marketing purposes. String the old hag up!
posted by Ufez Jones at 1:52 PM on June 11, 2003


I cannot wait to see Chelsea wear white to her wedding.

The white wedding dress is not a symbol of virginity; you're thinking of the veil.
posted by Mars Saxman at 2:12 PM on June 11, 2003


Maybe she joined NaNoWriMo.
posted by Soliloquy at 2:17 PM on June 11, 2003


For all her hard work, it must be very disappointing that after only one day on top, she has already fallen to number 3 on amazon.com rankings.

It's all down-Hill for her now.
posted by jtm at 2:18 PM on June 11, 2003


Cory Doctorow works for the the EFF and writes a page a day for his novels -- more when he goes to writer's retreats. Does that mean that he's neglecting his work and we should stop donating to the EFF?!


Hardly.
posted by insomnia_lj at 2:33 PM on June 11, 2003


Easterbrook is playing pretty dumb here. This is absolutely normal in the publishing industry. The exact role of the ghostwriter varies from book to book -- ranging from merely taking dictation from the named author to writing the book outright. Most fall somewhere in between. (Except in the case of William Shatner, whose first contact with the novels that bear his name is probably when he signs them at Star Trek conventions.) Public figures not principally known as authors almost invariably use ghostwriters; exactly how they use them simply a matter of degree.

If you're going to go after the practice you have to go back centuries, and you have a vastly wider range of targets just Hillary. Starting with Hillary is lame-assed opportunism. He'd like to attack the book but to do that he'd have to actually read it, and find something factually wrong in it. Who knows, he may actually do that someday.

But he wasn't going to let that get in the way of getting some shots off now so he took the only tack he could. Weak. Very weak.
posted by George_Spiggott at 2:58 PM on June 11, 2003


It's a memoir. You write down what you think happened. You don't really have to even do any research.

I'm sure an editor or editors went over it and picked it to pieces and put it back together again. Like they do for all authors, either more or less. Criticizing her book based on the page count and the distance between the deal and print is pretty weak.

P.S. I've read neither the book or the link. Sorry. I swear this only happens very rarely.
posted by rocketpup at 3:01 PM on June 11, 2003


It's commonly known that the famous people who "write" their memoirs generally don't become famous because of their writing skills, and that their role in "writing" the books consists of telling their story to a professional ghostwriter. Just because Ms. Clinton may not have personally performed the physical act of putting the words on the page doesn't mean she didn't participate in the creative process.

Or as Truman Capote more succintly put it, "That's not writing, that's typing."
posted by kirkaracha at 3:39 PM on June 11, 2003


I'm sure an editor or editors went over it and picked it to pieces and put it back together again.

I'm sure a lawyer or lawyers went over it and picked it to pieces and put it back together again.
I'm sure a political consultant or political consultants went over it and picked it to pieces and put it back together again.
posted by matteo at 3:58 PM on June 11, 2003


I hate it when Fox news posts to the front page.
posted by troybob at 5:57 PM on June 11, 2003


Hilary Rodham Clinton is a lawyer. They do a lot of writing, and they get good and fast at doing it, especially non-fiction. After writing legal briefs, writing the memoir should have been a cakewalk.
posted by theora55 at 6:05 PM on June 11, 2003


Hilary Clinton is a liar.
But at least she can spell her name.
posted by anser at 6:18 PM on June 11, 2003


Yes, Easterbrook is a very good writer and quite respected. I've found that even when I disagree with him, I have to admit his points are well-made and his research eminently sound. Best thing to happen to TNR for many years.

Also,

I cannot wait to see Chelsea wear white to her wedding.

You ought to be fucking ashamed of yourself for having said anything that low. What's she done to you?

Lastly, they don't call them ghostwriters for nothing. If she credited them, they wouldn't be. They knew how the job worked when they signed up for it, and they're being paid as much as they agreed to work for, I'm sure, so what's the problem?
posted by Hildago at 8:19 PM on June 11, 2003


47% of all statistics are made up on the spot.
posted by alumshubby at 9:08 PM on June 11, 2003


But at least she can spell her name.

surely by know we've learned that accuracy is not these people's strong point.
posted by mcsweetie at 9:33 PM on June 11, 2003


Uh, she had a ghost writer... not really a secret, or a lie. I've seen it mentioned in more than one news article. So what?
posted by spilon at 11:06 PM on June 11, 2003


This would have been funnier earlier in the thread, but she could have at least hired an actual Ghostwriter.
posted by sillygwailo at 11:21 PM on June 11, 2003


I find the Hillary bashing a bit confusing as she's never had much of a strong position on anything. Then the Chelsea bashing is just plain bizarre and really inexcusable. Are we seeing misogyny; a liberal woman, afterall, is something of abomination to the ultra-righties.
posted by skallas at 11:34 PM on June 11, 2003


Heh, next week Easterbrook is going to expose Profiles In Courage.
posted by skallas at 11:35 PM on June 11, 2003


Chelsea Clinton is beautiful. That is about all I have to say.
posted by bargle at 11:43 PM on June 11, 2003


But at least she can spell her name.

mcsweetie: surely by know we've learned that accuracy is not these people's strong point.


That sharp stab of irony's gotta hurt, mcsweetie... :)
posted by hincandenza at 1:09 AM on June 12, 2003


Hilary Rodham Clinton is a lawyer. They do a lot of writing, and they get good and fast at doing it, especially non-fiction.

Now that is not writing; That is typing.
posted by Shane at 5:55 AM on June 12, 2003


Sorry, people. I did not mean to come off as a Fox news-style blowhard. I was merely trying to point out an interesting point in a column -- political commentary on a sports site. I read Easterbrook often, and find him fascinating. And I thought his Hillary Clinton point was well-made. (And yes, I spelled it wrong. People make mistakes. Especially people who type a lot all day -- as I do.) So to those who found this post interesting-- thanks for your insight. For those who bitched reflexively, without bothering to read at least the relevant passage -- cram it sideways.
posted by krewson at 7:11 AM on June 12, 2003


At least one author claims not to have used a ghostwriter for his autobiography.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:24 AM on June 12, 2003


Also:

She said she had help from a researcher and "collaborators who did a lot of interviews" with those who were present for events she was describing. She also said she wrote in longhand on legal pads -- "I cannot think on a computer," she said.
posted by Mo Nickels at 7:34 AM on June 12, 2003


it burns!
posted by mcsweetie at 7:37 AM on June 12, 2003


Too bad about that awfull typo in the post title. ( should have read "Hillary Clinton is a politician" )
posted by troutfishing at 7:42 AM on June 12, 2003


At least one author claims not to have used a ghostwriter for his autobiography.

And at least who didn't, really should have.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 7:59 AM on June 12, 2003


I'll excerpt my own comments about it from my site:

"Easterbrook's comment that it would take the average writer four years to write a 562-page book is complete and total crap. In four years (1999 through 2002) I wrote three books under my own name (each about 90,000 words, or roughly 300 pages each), and contributed to another three books to the tune of about 60,000 words, or another 200 pages. Currently I'm working on two additional books, one due in September and one in October, both of which will also come out to about 90,000 words, or yet another 300 pages each.

"So, in five years, I will have produced five books under my own name and contributed to three other books for a grand total of about 510,000 words and about 1,700 pages. Note this is on top of writing newspaper and magazine columns and articles, corporate writing assignments and writing untold thousands of words here on this site. To put it simply, if I could only produce 560 pages of writing in four years, I would starve. I'm glad the 'average' writer can only write that much. It means more work for me. But in fact the 'average' writer can write substantially more than Easterbrook (himself an author of three books) claims."
posted by jscalzi at 9:49 AM on June 12, 2003


Blah , but blah, and blah, if blah, blah blah ! Considering blah, we blah and blah with blah friends blah, blah blah ! BLAH in other words "blah" ,either blah or blah and blah, not mentiong blah ; supporting blah not blah necessarly blah, but if not blah isn't blah ? Oh, blah ! Sex blah blah blah blah not if blah ? Cigar smoker blah blah !Blah , but blah, and blah, if blah, blah blah ! Considering blah, we blah and blah with blah friends blah, blah blah ! BLAH in other words "blah" ,either blah or blah and blah, not mentiong blah ; supporting blah not blah necessarly blah, but if not blah isn't blah ? Oh, blah ! Sex blah blah blah blah not if blah ? Cigar smoker blah blah !

How many blah did I write ? Don't bother counting It's evident for any quantitative analyzer I rule.
posted by elpapacito at 10:52 AM on June 12, 2003


Looks like she was correct about the "vast right wing conspiracy" to slander her, and her husband.

Duh.
posted by zekinskia at 12:11 PM on June 13, 2003


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