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On the legendary first Monday in October, the event that will put the U.S. Supreme Court into the headlines won’t be the opening of its fall term. This year, Oct. 1 also happens to be the publication date for Justice Clarence Thomas’ long-awaited autobiography, My Grandfather’s Son: A Memoir. The day before, Legal Times, an affiliate of The National Law Journal, has confirmed, 60 Minutes will air an interview Thomas gave to CBS reporter Steve Kroft at the court and elsewhere. So, after a $1.5 million advance on royalties and nearly five years of labored writing � without a ghostwriter � the Thomas book will finally make an unexpectedly high-wattage debut. When he first negotiated his book contract with HarperCollins, according to his agent, Lynn Chu, Thomas insisted that the standard clause requiring authors to do publicity be excised, and it was. At the recent urging of the publisher and Chu herself � “I was weeping in the background,” she said � Thomas finally agreed to what Chu says is a “severely limited” number of media interviews. But with two weeks to go before the debut, few advance copies are in circulation and remarkably little is known about the book, encouraging rampant speculation about its contents. What can he possibly say that will earn his advance back for the publisher? What can he write that we don’t already know? A 1991 ending One thing appears certain: Those who have read the book say its narrative ends in 1991, when he was sworn in as a justice. Thomas committed himself to not embarrassing his colleagues in the way he did when he arrived at the court. In the wake of the intense confirmation battle that erupted after allegations emerged that he sexually harassed Anita Hill, Thomas and his wife, Ginni, remained in the limelight even after he was sworn in as a justice. A seven-page spread on the couple in People magazine “compounded the Court’s sense of bewilderment about him,” writes author Jeffrey Toobin in The Nine, his new book on the court. Chu confirms that the book contains “no gossip about the court.” As for what the book does contain, most of the guesswork focuses on Thomas’ confirmation hearings, which were nearly derailed when Hill, a former colleague, made her accusations of sexual harassment. In a 1994 book, former Senator John Danforth, R-Mo., who shepherded Thomas’ nomination through the Senate, offered graphic details of Thomas writhing on the ground in agony during the confirmation ordeal. But if Thomas goes into details about his relationship with Hill, that could be “explosive,” as one person familiar with the book says it will be. Chu, however, tamps down that speculation. “He does deal with the whole Anita Hill thing in a very open way,” she says, but she would not call that section of the book explosive. Still, said Kevin Merida, co-author of Supreme Discomfort: The Divided Soul of Clarence Thomas, published in April, almost anything Thomas says about their relationship will make news. “No matter what side you are on, there was more texture to the relationship” than has been revealed thus far. More generally, Chu said of the book, “He doesn’t pull any punches. Honesty is a good thing; that’s what books are for.” She says that, in “ David Copperfield fashion,” Thomas writes mainly about his birth and childhood, focusing especially on his grandfather Myers Anderson, who raised Thomas after his mother turned him and his brother over to Anderson when Thomas was a young child. It is no accident that, while earlier versions of the book’s title referred to Pin Point, the neighborhood near Savannah, Ga., where he was born, the name he settled on for the book focused on his grandfather, who Thomas has said is the most important person in his life. Spiritual exhaustion But during the years, Thomas has spoken often about his childhood. Even though he is reticent on the bench � he has not asked a question during oral argument in more than a year � C-SPAN archives are full of public talks he has given in which he bared his soul about being “whupped” as a child, the stigma of affirmative action he felt and other lessons of life. Four biographies of Thomas have been published, making his childhood an oft-told tale. Even a recent BusinessWeek interview with Thomas about his mentor at the College of the Holy Cross turned into a candid description of his angry college days and current spiritual exhaustion. “Will a book manuscript that’s been edited and read and reread be anywhere near as revealing as Thomas spontaneously was in that remarkably frank and emotional interview?” asks Cambridge University Professor David Garrow, a longtime Supreme Court watcher.

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