NEW YORK - First lady Laura Bush, among the most reserved and enigmatic public figures of recent times, will, at last, tell her story.
How much she will disclose remains a mystery.
Bush has agreed to write a memoir with one of the world's oldest publishing houses, Scribner, the house of Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and the first lady's mother-in-law, Barbara Bush. Publication for the book, currently untitled, is scheduled for 2010.
"I am curious about Laura Bush and I believe others — people you would expect to be supporters of a Republican first lady, and other people, too — are just as curious about her," says Scribner publisher and executive vice president Susan Moldow, one of several publishers to meet last fall with the first lady
"She was forthcoming about her own reticence. She understands she has not put herself forward and that this is her chance to share the information she wants to share. I know it will be interesting, in a surprising, unfiltered way."
The potential audience is enormous. Despite eight years in the White House, Laura Bush is essentially unknown to her many admirers, who have speculated about her politics (rumors abound that she's more liberal than her husband), her marriage and a car accident when she was a teenager. A former librarian, Bush is also known as a devoted reader whose favorite authors include Cormac McCarthy, Truman Capote and Toni Morrison.
In a statement issued Monday by Scribner, Bush said that she looked forward to working with the publisher "as I tell the stories of the extraordinary events and people I've met in my life, particularly during my years in the White House."
But rival publishers doubt the information Bush wants to share is the same that the public wants to read; they also question whether her advance — while surely worth millions — matches the $8 million Hillary Rodham Clinton received for "Living History." Executives from two publishing houses who spoke with the first lady said they decided not to offer bids. The executives asked not to be identified, citing the confidentiality of the talks.
Scribner, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Inc., part of CBS Corp., prevailed in an auction involving several publishers, according to Bush's literary representative, Robert Barnett.
Neither Moldow not Barnett would offer financial details, but both say the memoir will be candid. Barnett, whose clients include Hillary Clinton and former President Bill Clinton, disputed concerns by noting that you never "reveal your best material in multi-publisher meetings."
Moldow said she anticipated a lively and fascinating book, and added that she never sought a "tell-all" from the first lady.
"I think she is clearly a very loyal person and she is also not someone you would expect explosive information from," she said. Asked what she hoped for in the book, Moldow said, "I want to learn her view of things; that's what I want to hear."
According to Barnett, Bush has not started the book, but "wants to get right to work on this project when she leaves the White House. It is a high priority for her."
Bush will have a collaborator — still to be determined — to help her meet the 2010 publishing date. Former first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton's memoir "Living History" was released by Simon & Schuster two and a half years after she left the White House, well into her first term as New York senator.
Bush co-authored a children's story with daughter Jenna, but she clearly has more experience reading books than writing them. Moldow says that while Bush offered no writing samples, the first lady's in-person speaking style demonstrated "what a distinctive voice she has."
It will be the collaborator's job, Moldow says, "to capture that, because I don't think people have heard it as clearly as I did."
Moldow says that Bush will help publicize the book. Recent first ladies, including Barbara Bush, have had more dependable appeal with readers than their husbands have had. President George W. Bush said last year that he, too, wants to write a book. Publishers, noting his poor approval ratings, have urged him to wait.