Sunday, January 28, 2018

Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff

This book was everywhere. Comedians were talking about it. Politicians were talking about it. Magazines and newspapers were talking about it. Trump was talking about it. Even the Grammys got in on it, with Hillary Clinton making a special cameo, during which she read excerpts from the book. It was supposed to be game-changing. Scandalous. Dishy. Controversial. It was making ~waves~. Hell, I even got unfriended by several people after posting status updates for this book! It was that #edgy.

Naturally, everyone wanted a piece of that sweet, sweet edge.

I'm a bit late to the game, since I got my copy from the library (curse you, waiting list), but I did eyeball some of my friends' status updates as they read the book, and their lack of "OH MY GOD, NO WAY!" was a tip-off that this book probably wasn't going to be the ##BIGSCANDAL it was being hyped up to be. Things rarely are. I think we all remember how disappointed we were when Rachel Maddow went on TV claiming to have a copy of Trump's tax returns that she was going to reveal, live, and it was just an old, already released copy from 2005. I was expecting that.

FIRE AND FURY has two major problems: unprofessional writing and lack of cited sources. The former makes sense. The author/publisher apparently received a cease and desist notice regarding the book, and in a sweeping gesture intended to support the first amendment and the free press, they sped up publication, thus putting the book into the public's hands faster and thumbing their nose at the president (and also garnering a fair amount of publicity and demand, as well). But it means that the book is riddled with typos like this (although maybe not quite so unfortunate): Bannon was making his first official pubic [sic] appearance of the Trump presidency (130). The writing itself is a bit breathless and sensationalistic and kind of reminds me of GAME CHANGE, the book that detailed the campaign between Clinton, McCain, and Obama. Both books take an omniscient third-person narrator approach that makes the reader wonder, "How many liberties are they taking with the story?"

Which brings me to the second point. I'm a chronic Googler. I like looking things up. When reading nonfiction about a subject I find interesting or relevant, I immediately jump to the sources listed in the book, for further research. It's how I was raised: to question, to be skeptical, to gather data in the search for truth in the face of salient evidence. In the back of my edition of FIRE AND FURY, there is an index - but no page numbers, and also no bibliography or list of sources. The lack of footnotes concerned me, as many documentaries in book form have footnotes after quotes or data that are then indexed in the back by chapter with a list of the websites, articles, and interviews that the author gleaned that information from. This book did not have those things, which I found troubling.

As far as the content goes, it told me nothing I couldn't have learned from watching Seth Meyers or Samantha Bee, or picking up a newspaper (God help me). If it did anything, it only reinforced the suspicions I already had: that Trump appears to be a childish, inexperienced, paranoid, petty, narcissistic man who needs to be fed praise constantly and obsesses over any negative statements about his glorious personage the same way Ebeneezer Scrooge greedily counted his coins; that Bannon appears to be a crude and nasty man who dreams of isolationism and wants to take down the liberal party with the same sort of elaborate schemes that Bond villains used to try to take over the world; that Jared and Ivanka appear to be trying to play Good Cop to Trump's Bad Cop in a pitiful effort to out-class the sinking ship that is the S.S. Alt-Right Party, but are in it for themselves as much as anyone else. It's freaking ridiculous, and not a day goes by when I wonder, "How did we get here?"

I'm as liberal as they come, and live in one of the most liberal places in the entire United States, but I will be the first to admit that this book had problems. And while I can appreciate the publisher wanting to support free speech and the free press, the move did appear a mite publicity-driven. I'm glad people are reading this book, and I hope that it will encourage them to ask questions, too, and maybe think extra hard about the people who are affected by such gross changes in government, but at the same time, I think that the typos and sloppy writing make it way too easy for the points that this book makes to be dismissed, and that feels like it's going to be a big mistake in the long run.

But hey, that's just my two cents.

3 out of 5 stars

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.