VINEYARD HAVEN, MA — At a bookstore in the upscale New England resort of Martha’s Vineyard, President Barack Obama chose some summer reading for his daughters – a fiction classic set in the Jim Crow South – and for himself a sprawling summer epic about the downfall of a family that moves from the Midwest to Washington.
Obama – wearing a polo shirt and ball cap – emerged from the Bunch of Grapes bookstore carrying a brown paper bag and preceded by Sasha, 9, and Malia, 12, who’s rejoined the family after her first summer camp.
Inside the bag was “Freedom” by Jonathan Franzen, aides reported. The novel portrays a family of urban homesteaders in St. Paul, Minnesota, who decamp to the nation’s capital. It’s not on sale yet, but the store gave him an advance copy. The president also purchased “Tinkers” by Paul Harding and “A Few Corrections” by Brad Leithauser, the bookstore said.
For the girls, the president bought two volumes: “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee and “The Red Pony” by John Steinbeck, a cashier said.
Lee’s 1960 novel, a staple in English classrooms, centers on a rape trial in small-town Alabama and a white lawyer who defends a black man accused of the crime. A lesson in tolerance and integrity, it’s seen through the eyes of the lawyer’s 6-year-old daughter.
The bookstore visit set the tone for the Obamas’ 10-day sojourn on Martha’s Vineyard: learned, laid-back, and family oriented.
Despite regular briefings on intelligence and other matters, the president was hoping for a stay dominated by downtime – from drowsing at the beach to stops at trademark ice cream shops.
And plenty of golf. Three hours after his bookstore visit, Obama was at Vineyard Golf Club, teeing off under bright sunshine and temperatures in the low ’80s. His foursome included House Democratic Whip Jim Clyburn of South Carolina.
The Vineyard stay – Obama’s second August in a row on the island off Cape Cod – was a welcome respite after another turbulent period, which saw the Gulf oil leak finally plugged and the last US combat brigade leave Iraq, but also fresh signs that the recovery is stalling and another slump in poll numbers for his handling of the economy.
On Friday, Obama got this upbeat news on the Mideast: Israeli and Palestinian negotiators will resume direct peace talks in September. They’d been stalled for months by haggling over Jewish settlements.
Meantime, outside the bookshop, crowds quickly formed behind yellow police tape as word of Obama’s visit spread.
Brendan Murphy, 14, of Simsbury, Connecticut, was inside when the president entered, and handed Obama a copy of his memoir, “Dreams from My Father,” to autograph.
He wished Obama a nice vacation, reported Murphy’s father, Ed. The president responded: “‘You, too. We’re hoping, too.'”
As to golf, that’s rapidly become an Obama passion. Since taking office, the president has gone golfing 44 times, according to Mark Knoller, a CBS White House reporter who keeps meticulous records on such things.
That includes four outings here last summer, but does not include the miniature golf he played with Sasha last weekend in Panama City, Florida.