Sincerely Yours, Anonymous
FIRST, a disclaimer: Nobody has suggested that I am Anonymous, who wrote the American bestseller ''Primary Colors.''
For financial if not literary reasons I wish I were, but I'm not.
Having gotten that out of the way, what concerns us next is not the identity of the author of ''Primary Colors'' but the issue of anonymity itself. There is something profoundly interesting about the time we live in; the absence of a name on a book has suddenly become celebrity's spotlight, the big enchilada of political prose.
It wasn't always thus. The early works of the Bronte sisters were published anonymously; so was Jane Austen's ''Sense and Sensibility.'' Closer to home, ''Democracy,'' Henry Adams's gloomy 1880 novel about Washington politics, also appeared anonymously. Nobody gave much of a hoot. A book, they figured, is a book. The ruling question was - is it a good book?
Nowadays we have celebrity, which is not the same thing as fame. A famous woman or man goes on being famous. A celebrity is only famous for a relatively short time. ''Evel'' Knieval is a daredevil who was celebrated for jumping his motorcycle over rows of parked cars and for other such risky antics. His act, while thrilling, was limited. It ceased to be interesting after a while. Now he isn't a celebrity anymore. Our newest celebrity - the lady who wins downhill skiing races - has double appeal: Not only is she a superb athlete, she also has a beguiling name, Picabo (pronounced peek-a-boo) Street.
In other words, this is big name time - even if many of the most prominent names cease to be big after awhile. It is, therefore, of abiding interest that an author who signs himself or herself Anonymous has caused such a whoop of media attention, guessing games, and finger-pointing.
Even more than writing an apparently accurate insider look at the 1992 Clinton-Gore campaign, Anonymous has stood the custom of the times on its head. This canny author can't cease to be a celebrity because he or she never was one in the first place. Whoever wrote ''Primary Colors'' clobbered us all with the power of implication; by putting ''Anonymous'' on the book's cover beneath the title, the implication was that the author was so hugely well known, so intimately knowledgeable about the 1992 Democratic presidential campaign, that signing his or her name to the novel was out of the question. Whispered conjectures were left behind; could the author be Tipper, possibly Al, you don't suppose Hillary - BILL HIMSELF?
It could be that big names are about to go the way of all fads and fashions - onto the trash heap of history, as Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev (a former celebrity) used to say. It could further be that anonymity will become all the rage. If that is the case, we can call off the rest of the Republican primaries. We already know who the 1996 GOP nominee will be:
Anonymous, that's who.