The Obama factor

Everything biographer/historian David Garrow writes is worth reading. Garrow is the author, most recently, of Rising Star: The Making of Barack Obama (2017). This staggeringly researched book — Garrow spent nine years on it — covers 1078 pages of text (even though Garrow relegates his comments on Obama’s presidency to a 50-page epilogue).

Rising Star is full of discoveries that Garrow documents in great detail. The 1078 pages of text are supported by 300 pages of footnotes in a double column with small print. Garrow puts every other biographer of Obama to shame.

David Samuels is the literary editor of Tablet. Samuels introduces his interview of Garrow with an essay based on Rising Star and reiterates his points in the questions he poses to him in “The Obama factor.” It is profoundly interesting and incredibly rich from beginning to end. If you think The Great Gatsby is overrated, you may think twice after thinking through Garrow’s comments on Obama’s self-invention.

On the site formerly known as Twitter, readers have noted their favorite parts. Below are the selections of two such readers. Search the site on “Garrow” to find Tevi Troy’s, Ed Whelan’s, and Lee Smiths’s, to take a few examples.

Garrow’s work on Martin Luther King has given him intense exposure to the deep state at work. Tom Bevan highlights this item that draws on Garrow’s exposure to that work.

Garrow was on the faculty of the University of Pittsburgh School of School of Law when I started corresponding with him a few years ago. When I wrote him about this interview yesterday, he asked me if I had seen his recent Wall Street Journal review of Judge Amul Thapar’s new book on Justice Thomas, The People’s Justice: Clarence Thomas and the Constitutional Stories that Define Him. Garrow’s review is “The originalist and the masses” (“When we follow the Constitution’s text, a federal judge argues, the weak and the powerless stand to benefit the most”). I had missed his review in the hard copy of the paper. Reading it yesterday made my day.

I have noted Garrow’s work several times on Power Line, as in “David Garrow explains,” “Who was the real MLK?,” and “Obama’s airbrushed dreams.” As I say above, everything he writes is worth reading.

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