Barack Obama meets ‘State by State’


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When the L.A. Times covered the anthology ‘State by State,’ it was I who got to write the article about this book, which is kind of a literary road trip. ‘State by State’ is a collection of 51 essays by fabulous and funny writers — Jonathan Franzen, John Hodgman — each focusing on one state in the nation (Washington, D.C., is included, too). The idea came from the WPA state guides but is, in its new incarnation, more intimate and personal.

Less than two weeks before the election, co-editor Sean Wilsey found himself at a fundraiser for Barack Obama in New York. Did he bring the book? Of course he did — if you look closely, you can see the title on the binding. He’s working on an article about the encounter but, in the meantime, filled us in on what it was like to share his book with the soon-to-be-president of the United States.


Jacket Copy: How many people were at the fundraiser?
Sean Wilsey: 100

JC: What did Barack say to you?
Sean Wilsey: ‘Whoa.’ (After I told him I’d donated my share of the book’s advance to come to the event. That seemed to really mean something to a fellow writer.)

JC: Did you give him that copy of ‘State by State’? Did you see if he kept it, or did he hand it off to an aide?
Sean Wilsey: Of course I gave it to him. We did it for him! And he spent a long time standing there reading it. Then he handed it to Reggie Love so he could shake some more hands.

JC: Did you consider giving a copy to McCain?
Sean Wilsey: Absolutely.

JC: If you could go back to that moment, knowing as we do now that Obama would be elected president, would you do anything differently?
Sean Wilsey: No.

—Carolyn Kellogg