After reading "Memories of the Gore Administration" in the Dec 13th issue of New York Magazine, I asked Kurt Andersen via Twitter how the piece was constructed (it was done as an exquisite corpse), and tweeted that it would be interesting to read about how he and Glenn Beck ended up writing an alternate history of Al Gore's presidency together. Andersen put me in touch with Christopher Bonanos, who generously agreed to write a guest post about editing the thing together. Tomer Hanuka, who illustrated the piece for New York, agreed to let me use his images and even supplied me with two additional sketches that haven't been posted online before.
Actual 2001, as George Bush prepares to read after being told a second plane had hit the WTC; Tomer Hanuka's sketch of Kurt Andersen's Alternate 2001, in which President Gore escapes the destruction of the White House.
Actual Joe Lieberman being kissed by G. W. Bush; alternate Lieberman betraying Gore, in Kevin Baker's version of 2002-3.
The "Mission Accomplished," moment, when George Bush was the first American President in history to wear a military uniform while in office; Tomer Hanuka's sketch of Glenn Beck's imagined alternate faux pas, in which Gore inadvertently eats a polar-bear steak.
The basic idea for the ending came from the boss. After he'd read the early chapters, Adam said to me that it might be fun to have the story circle around to right now—in other words, that nothing would end up different about the present day. He asked me to offer Kurt the idea; I did, and he liked it. It also led to one of my favorite details in the story. In Kurt's closing scene, Gore goes on TV to promote his book, Decision Points, which has the same title as the book George W. Bush was plugging last December. The matching book tours took me by surprise in Kurt's draft, and I laughed out loud.
I’m pleased to say that, once all the writers were lined up, this was one of the lighter pencil-edits I’ve ever had to do. All five contributors delivered manuscripts that worked. Jane Smiley’s initial draft took one turn that I found a little hard to follow--a sequence that, if read a certain way, could appear to contradict several plot points from earlier chapters--but she cooked up a tidy solution very quickly, for which I was grateful. Nobody’s copy needed heavy work; my chief editorial task was just snipping and trimming, because nearly everyone went a little bit long, and the story had crept up to nearly 8,000 words altogether. That seemed heavy, given that this was supposed to be a little bit of a lark. I made lots of small cuts; our managing editor, Ann Clarke, found me one extra page of space; and if I remember right, we ended up at about 6,800 words.
GW Bush narrowly dodges a shoe thrown by an irate Iraqi journalist.
Tomer Hanuka's sketch of Jane Smiley's version of a 2006 assassination attempt against President Alt Gore.
The real Obama debates McCain and wins; Walter Kirn imagines Edwards debating Romney and losing.
Al Gore's Book about the choice we have ahead of us;
Kurt Andersen's wrap up of an imagined Gore presidency.