Peter Osnos was the publisher at Times Books back in the 1990s when literary agent Jane Dystel approached the house about a memoir by one of her clients, a Harvard law school grad named Barack Obama. That, as you might recall, led to the publication of Dreams of My Father in 1995. Well, Osnos has kept track of his young author, who of course has gone on to tremendous political and publishing success since Crown revived Dreams two years ago, and what bothers him about that steady upward climb is Obama’s decision to dump Dystel as his agent and hire Robert Barnett, the attorney who handles literary affairs for just about everybody on the DC A-list, then cutting a seven-figure book deal with Crown before being sworn into the U.S. Senate…in other words, before the income would require public disclosure.
While recognizing that Obama’s business decision is “completely legal and entirely within his rights as a writer,” Osnos is still disappointed at how quickly the senator has cashed in on his high-profile arrival on the political scene. “I just wish that this virtuous symbol of America’s aspirational class did not move quite so smoothly into a system of riches as a reward for service,” Osnos observes, “especially before it has actually been rendered.”