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Clinton book hype rivals Harry Potter

By Kevin Liles

Former President Bill Clinton steps back into the national spotlight today with the release of his new book, "My Life."

The 957-page memoir, published by Alfred A. Knopf, went on sale last night at midnight across the nation. Three locations of the bookstore Chapter 11 in Atlanta stayed open late for the premier.

Other stores didn't, but they have been experiencing the hype surrounding the book.

"We have a lot people who have reserved a copy," said Gina Phinocchiaro, senior bookseller at Waldenbooks in Southlake Mall. "The last time we had this much hype, it was the release of Harry Potter last year."

As with most high-profile book releases, security is important: Boxes containing the books were not to be opened until midnight Monday night. Phinocchiaro said she couldn't disclose how many books her store had on hand.

"But if we run out, we can get more from other stores in the area," she said.

"My Life" has been criticized as boring and untrue by several conservatives, the Associated Press reported.

But Cassie Hardy, a substitute teacher for Henry County schools, said she plans to read the book.

"It's not at the top of my list, but I will read it," she said. "I saw his interview on 60 Minutes last night, and it made me want to read it. He's a very charismatic person, and is very likable."

Alfred A. Knopf gave Clinton a $10 million advance for the book, but there will not be a problem in making that money back, said Ray Wallace, dean of Clayton State & College University Department of Arts and Sciences.

"That is a large advance," said Wallace, who has written four books and is writing a fifth. "But Clinton is a worldwide figure. He's a former president and everybody either loved or hated him. There was no middle of the road.

"And internationally, he was much more liked that disliked. It will sell very, very well in English-speaking countries, and even in translated versions," Wallace said.

Clinton's book "definitely" has more hype than "Living History," written by his wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), said Phinocchiaro. It was released earlier this year.

Clinton is also using the timing of his book release to help Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), who is running against President Bush this year.

Alfred A. Knopf has given the former president's memoirs a first printing of 1.5 million.

According to her publisher, Simon & Schuster, Sen. Clinton's "Living History" has about 2.3 million copies in print, including both hardcover and paperback editions, the AP reported.