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After the Fall

by Michael Knox Beran

Obama’s last sermon

The memoir is, probably, the thing that makes the prospect of giving it up at all palatable. President Obama is by nature an intellectual, and eight years of hard labor as a man of action can only have strengthened his appetite for the luxuries of a literary life.

Yet the book itself will almost certainly disappoint: Presidential memoirs are by definition incredible, are implicitly not to be believed. The story of most presidencies is one of pride chastened, of egotism rebuked. But it is not a story presidents find easy to tell. “All the dogmatic stations in life,” Henry Adams said, “have the effect of fixing a certain stiffness of attitude forever.” Having been, successively, schoolteacher, senator, and president, Obama has been too long a professional dogmatist to be a supple and candid memoirist.

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