WE ALL KNOW by now that Barbara Bush is an exceptional woman. She is, in turn, charming and committed. She is handsome and down-to-earth, a woman for all seasons. But now I find that she is even more than we had thought.
In an interview this summer, with journalists from the Washington Times and Knight-Ridder among others, Barbara Bush finally revealed the scope of her intellect.
When journalists asked what the president was reading this summer, she responded, "Georgie Anne Geyer's biography of Castro."
There are those who will think that I somehow planted this response. That idea does me too much credit for cunning.
There are others who will think I took some sort of pleasure in Mrs. Bush's revelation. No, not me. Like all authors, I am a modest sort. I only want my books to be seen and not heard of, in remote little libraries in Idaho, the upper Great Lakes and the South Side of Chicago, from whence I many years ago came.
Has anyone, after all, ever read in this column about how wonderful my books are? Have I ever given you the title of the Castro book ("Guerrilla Prince: The Untold Story of Fidel Castro") or the publisher, price and discount? Do you recall any self-praise of my analysis of the Cuban "Presidente Maximo and Supremo"? Did I ever mention six years of research and 500 interviews in 28 countries?
You can imagine, then, given such modesty and tact, how, well, embarrassed I was at this revelation. The president, after all, is a man of taste; so is Mrs. Bush; why could they not have kept it in the privacy of the Oval Office that he is reading my book?
Once the news was out, however, all of this type of thinking became irrelevant. I sat down in my living room to figure out what to do. Should I congratulate the president? Should I tilt the other way and tell him, oh shucks, you shouldn't waste your time on such stuff when you've got Gorbachev, the New World Order and John Sununu to worry about?
Just as I was sitting there trying to figure out answers to these world-shaking questions, I switched on the television to find the president in Moscow with Gorby -- "Poppy in the Kremlin!"
If I weren't, like all authors, reticent about promoting my own work or basking in its blinding light, I might wonder just for a moment whether during those long hours of meetings in the Kremlin, Poppy and Gorby were reading aloud from my book.
If having my unforgettable words published had gone to my head, I might have wondered if Mikhail had, at one point, said, "You know, George, I never did like Castro!" And George would have responded, "Well, fine, Mikhail, then stop sending him oil!"
But, no, that is not the way of us authors. Our "life" is to sit quietly at our typewriters, early to bed and early to rise, never a drop of demon rum, hoping only that posterity will honor our memories centuries from now.
And, after all, Bush is not the only president to read my book. When the high-level Cuban intelligence defector Florentino Aspillaga left Cuba several years ago, he told me that the Cuban intelligence used to have whole meetings to discuss trying to steal my book.
Were I the brazen type, I would have faxed Fidel in the Palacio in Havana. "For goodness sake, Lider Maximo and Supremo," I would have said, "buy it!"