For a moment, Americans can forget September 11, Iraq, terrorists, plunging stock-markets and recession. For a few weeks, they may revisit a happier age, when the Clintons were in the White House and the world seemed eternally frivolous. Yes, for a special summer season, America's most transfixing political pyschodrama is back. Except that this time Hillary is in the starring role: not as Senator for New York, but as author.
And there are many with good reason to follow the plot closely. For a start the nine Democrats running for President next year. Unseating a popular President is a tough task in the best of circumstances. To do so while competing for national attention with the two best-known members of your own party, who aren't candidates, is enough to have even the boldest among them contemplating early retirement.
Yet that is the predicament of Messrs Lieberman, Gephardt, Kerry, Edwards and the rest right now. Their opponent is George W Bush. But the only Democrats that really interest anyone seem to be Bill and Hillary Clinton. Hillary, indeed, is the candidate Democratic activists would like to see run against Bush. And now she's come up with her memoirs, which may be a launch pad for a presidential bid of her own: not now, but five years hence.
Living History is the title of the 570-page volume, but what lies between the covers is as tightly guarded as the launch code for a Minuteman missile. Will it be a political manifesto, a serious inside account of the most controversial presidency since Lyndon Johnson, a revisiting of scandals - or a mixture of all three? Barely a fortnight before publication, no one outside the innermost circle knows. Thus far, neither Headline nor Simon & Schuster, the US publisher, have released anything more than the cover, featuring a smiling yet enigmatic Hillary, hand cupped under her chin, dressed in inscrutable black.
Yet every trapping of a mega-launch is in place. A million copies have been printed, a record for a political memoir. Barbara Walters, the doyenne of TV anchors, has been granted an exclusive interview, to run as a primetime ABC news special on 8 June, the day before Living History hits the shops. Accompanying it is an audio version read by Hillary herself. The standard coast-to-coast signing tour - a perfect vehicle for raising a national political profile - follows.
And the queen's table has already been set by one of her erstwhile courtiers. Sidney Blumenthal's The Clinton Wars, out this month, runs to more than 800 pages. It recounts his years as a White House adviser during the second Clinton term, when the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke. Blumenthal's is the loyal retainer's tale, as elegantly written as you would expect from a man who effortlessly mutated from columnist for The New Republic and The New Yorker into cheerleader and unqualified defender of a presidential couple he saw as a new Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt - political giants envied by lesser men who sought to bring down.
But where his enemies are concerned, Blumenthal wields a strychnine-tipped pen that belies his soft and gentle manner. "Sid Vicious", his enemies dubbed him, and in The Clinton Wars he does not disappoint, savaging rivals and settling scores. They also used to call him "Grassy Knoll" as a result of his habit of seeing plots, real or imagined, at every turn.
And no plot in those years was bigger than what Hillary termed "this vast right-wing conspiracy" to bring down the Clinton presidency, perpetrated by a small group of conservative fanatics. Beyond doubt, a conspiracy of sorts did exist. Blumenthal has provided the aperitif. Now perhaps we will hear the lady's more extensive views on the subject.
Her lawyer Robert Barnett, who negotiated the book contract, promises that her story will be "complete and candid". But buyers will not be parting with $28 in …