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December 05, 2004

740 More than Alan Keyes Got at His Last NYC Book Signing
(Give or Take)

by Ron Hogan

Some time ago, I put out an open call to anyone who had been to a reading that I missed, inviting them to write in with their own reports, which I'd publish here. Freelance writer (and audiobooks insider) Doug Diesenhaus is the first to respond, with this account of a recent New York City appearance by Senator-elect Barack Obama at the Union Square Barnes & Noble. Obama drew "by far the largest reading crowd I've ever seen," Diesenhaus says, "around 750 people, if not more."

It was a fairly diverse crowd [he continues], filled with many young political types (glasses, bald spots, and the New York Times sticking out of their back pockets). Obama spoke without notes, referencing Dreams from My Father but not reading from it. While his talk was a bit dry, he was best in his moments of humor, such as his self-deprecating reaction to his new status as the rising star, "I'm 99th in seniority.... I will be sharpening pencils and sweeping when I get to Washington, so I hope people don't expect too much." He didn't hesitate to gloat just a bit, however, mentioning, "We're big in Kenya right now. Someone went on a safari and saw some Masai in traditional garb with an Obama button."

The crowd thinned at the start of the Q&A portion, and some members of the audience became a bit distracted by other stimulations. The guy standing next to me in the nosebleed photography section, who had first picked up a copy of American Pitbull soon turned to harder stuff with Timothy Greenfield-Sanders' XXX: 30 Porn-Star Portraits. Obama closed by tying his politics to a religious belief he cautioned is critically absent from the Democratic party's current platform. Using a line I'm sure the American public will be hearing more of, he said, "my individual salvation depends on our collective salvation."

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