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How to create a bestseller à la Hugo Chavez

April 22, 2009 |  6:28 am


There's been a lot of chatter -- more than 1.3 million blog posts -- about the news that Eduardo Galeano's book "Open Veins of Latin America" swept up the charts when Venezuela's Hugo Chavez handed it to President Obama at a summit meeting in Trinidad on Saturday. The book went from No. 54,295 on Amazon to No. 2 in two days -- after four, it remains strong, at No. 7.

The implications, it seems, are a) that everything Obama touches turns to gold, and b) if a struggling author wants instant success, the surest route is to stand next to him and press her book into his presidential hands.

The real problem here is the "stand next to him" part.

Obama is a busy guy. He's not wandering public beaches or eating waffles at diners anymore. He is scheduled to the nanosecond and guarded by the Secret Service. He's on state business, all the time, 24-7, and if you see him doing late-night TV or playing with the kids and the dog, chances are the encounters are fairly well choreographed. The man is president of the United States, and to maneuver into his orbit is harder than landing a table at Lucques wearing Crocs.

Unless, like, you're the leader of a sovereign nation.

Nicolas Sarkozy gets to stand next to Obama. Gordon Brown gets to walk with Obama. Lee Myung-bak and Angela Merkel get to sit next to Obama at dinner. But they lead France, Britain, South Korea and Germany, respectively. Against these power players, the hopeful author has little chance of replicating Chavez's book-selling coup for Galeano.

That is, unless Tuvalu and Nauru allow the foreign-born to run for office. A bestseller could be one parliamentary election away.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Bloomberg News