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Washingtonians Eagerly Await Clinton Book Signing - 2004-06-23

Former President Bill Clinton's long awaited memoir, "My Life," went on sale at midnight, June 22, and the early response has been overwhelming. Barbara Meade is co-owner of Politics and Prose bookstore in Washington, D.C., and will be hosting a book signing for Mr. Clinton in July. She talked with VOA's Nancy Beardsley about what's happened at her store since the book became available.

Meade: We have been getting a reaction that has just been off the charts. We've never had anything like this at all. The phone never stops ringing. There are 50 members of our staff, and we haven't got enough staff to answer the phone. We had probably about a thousand people here to pick up their copy at midnight. June 22 was the date the book could go on sale, so we started selling the book at midnight.

Beardsley: Who's buying the book? Does it seem to be people of all ages?

Meade: People of all ages. We had teenagers in the line last night. We had a number of people in wheelchairs. Usually our customer base in the store is about 65 percent women and about 35 percent men, and last night it was a good 50-50.

Beardsley: Do you have enough books to keep you stocked?

Meade: We have enough books but we were very busy scrambling at the last minute, because Random House cut back everybody's orders. So yesterday morning at nine o'clock we were not going to have enough books, and one of our staff members drove to Baltimore to pick up an extra 300 books. And a very kind wholesaler in Philadelphia drove down personally with 400 books.

Beardsley: President Clinton is going to be signing his book at Politics and Prose?

Meade: That's right. He's coming July 6. Beardsley: What kinds of special procedures have you put into place to make sure everybody gets their book signed?

Meade: Well, we're not going to be able to guarantee that everybody is going to be able to get their books signed. When you bought your book you got a line ticket. What we don't know is how quickly President Clinton is going to be able to sign. He's known as being a great schmoozer. And he's going to have people here with him from the publisher, and I'm hoping they will try to urge him to sign first and talk later. But it all depends on how many books he can sign an hour. He's going to be here an hour and a half. I'm feeling that probably 600 is the most he's going to sign. His publisher feels more.

Beardsley: Will there be some special rules for this signing?

Meade: There are special rules in the sense that it is one book, one person. That eliminates dealers coming with a dozen books to be signed. There's no personalization. He's just going to sign his name. And that's really the extent of it. And you have to have a line ticket, and you have to have bought the book here.

Beardsley: Do you get a sense from the people coming into the store what it is they're most interested in when they read this memoir?

Meade: One thing that was interesting to me last night when we started selling the books at midnight, I had a camera and I took a picture of two or three people standing on the sidewalk. And the minute they got the book they started looking through the index. I assume at least in Washington most people who are looking through an index are looking to see if their name is in the book. I think most people are trying to find some motivating factors that make Clinton tick. An awful lot of people are buying the book just simply because they want to meet the former president.

Beardsley: Have you had a chance to look at the book yourself?

Meade: I have not even opened it, no.

Beardsley: Barbara Meade of Politics and Prose, thank you so much.

Meade: Thank you. Barbara Meade is the co-owner of Politics and Prose, a popular Washington, D.C. bookstore. The store began selling President Clinton's new memoir, My Life, on June 22. My Life is published by Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House.