There is very little chance I’ll end up reading David Maraniss’ biography of Obama, although by all accounts it is a very detailed work which punctures much of Obama’s self-portryal (you remember the “composite” girlfriend revealed in a pre-release excerpt).
Ben Smith has read the book, and finds:
David Maraniss’s new biography of Barack Obama is the first sustained challenge to Obama’s control over his own story, a firm and occasionally brutal debunking of Obama’s bestselling 1995 memoir, Dreams from My Father.
Maraniss’s Barack Obama: The Story punctures two sets of falsehoods: The family tales Obama passed on, unknowing; and the stories Obama made up. The 672-page book closes before Obama enters law school, and Maraniss has promised another volumne, but by its conclusion I counted 38 instances in which the biographer convincingly disputes significant elements of Obama’s own story of his life and his family history.
One sentence in Smith’s review jumped out at me:
Maraniss finds that Obama’s young life was basically conventional, his personal struggles prosaic and later exaggerated.
Some of Maraniss’s most surprising debunking, though, comes in the area of family lore, where he disputes a long string of stories on three continents, though perhaps no more than most of us have picked up from garrulous grandparents and great uncles. And his corrections are, at times, a bit harsh.
Obama may be everything good, or the promise Obama embodies may just be a figment of our own imagination….
Just about the only thing we know about Obama is what he has told us about himself.
And what he told us about himself mostly was fiction.