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Old 12 January 2018, 09:49 PM
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E. Q. Taft E. Q. Taft is offline
 
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Default The TL:DR Guide to Michael Wolff's 'Fire and Fury'

Fire and Fury is really two books rolled into one. The first is a compelling nonfiction book about the intellectual divide in the modern right, as candidly hashed out to Wolff by influential figures like Steve Bannon and Roger Ailes and (seemingly?) Rupert Murdoch.

The second is a Primary Colors-style novel about what goes on behind various closed doors in the Trump White House, based on a few bits and pieces of fact, which are offset by mountains of eye-rollingly insupportable supposition, spiced with occasional stretches of believable analysis.

https://www.rollingstone.com/politic...d-fury-w515359
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Old 16 January 2018, 04:31 PM
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The first part sounds like it's worth reading.
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Old 24 January 2018, 04:09 PM
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I was in our local bookstore last night and noticed this book featured at the checkout. I got into conversation with the clerk serving me and she told me the book is pretty much flying off the shelves. She and I both agreed though we heard more than enough about Trump on the news every day.
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Old 24 January 2018, 04:26 PM
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This article from the New York Magazine seems to be a good "test drive" of the book. I found the excerpt to be a good read, though it has that air of "did this conversation really happen verbatim" that you get with junior biographies. I don't really feel a pressing need to read the full book based on this; YMMV.
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Old 24 January 2018, 04:49 PM
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Some of the verbatim bits were probably related directly to him or in his presence, but then that leads to the question of whether he was secretly recording all his conversations...

One thing I found annoying was the way he leaves himself out of it entirely, even when it's quite clear that he was there or that people were talking to him personally. The best-known example is the dinner-party with Steve Bannon and Roger Ailes at the start - he doesn't mention that he was the host and it was in his own house. I knew that when I read it, and didn't think it particularly mattered at that point, but there were other places where it was rather annoying.

One was when he's talking about Trump's late-night phone calls after he's retreated into his room, and relates a detailed conversation that Trump had when he rang "a media acquaintance" or something similar (I can't remember the exact phrase he used). There's enough detail that I wondered why he didn't just say "Trump rang me", because that's the clear implication. There's at least one more conversation related in that way, when it's clear that "the journalist" involved must have been Wolff himself. And there's another social evening eating Chinese round at Bannon's flat where it's obvious he was there.

I saw an interview where he implied that he left those details out because he didn't want the story to be about him, but I wonder if it's because it would have led him to have to be clearer about other sources too, and also because it implies that some of the people involved trusted him more than they might have been justified in doing. There's a long tradition of investigative journalists pretending to be your friend in order to get inside information, but if you contrast this with people like Louis Theroux or Jon Ronson, Theroux and Ronson always put themselves right at the centre of the story and it's clear what they were doing - if the participants forget or reveal more than they'd have liked, it's on them. Doing the "friendship" thing and then trying to leave yourself out of it altogether seems weaselly.

That's not an objection to the content as such, though, other than leaving you wondering about sources and about the exact words used, as musicgeek said. Overall I didn't find it as interesting as I'd hoped just because most of it confirms things we already "knew" or suspected. It's not an exercise in overturning prejudices.

Wolff isn't writing from a "liberal" perspective, though. He doesn't go much into the politics, and is quite carefully neutral on it. So sometimes it comes across rather as though everybody is attacking Trump for no particular reason, rather than for the things he's done and said. Bannon comes out of it reasonably well (except in relation to the things he says about Trump) because his horrendous policies and views are largely left out, and beyond that, he's one of the more competent people involved. The in-fighting between him, Priebus and the Jared / Ivanka side is interesting. (Jared and Ivanka seem to have politics that I'd agree with more than the others, but are correspondingly much less competent at it).

In that sense, the interesting revelation will please Mouse - one of the messages is just how little Trump cares about these things. According to the book he doesn't much care about abolishing health care, for instance. He would have happily extended Medicaid to everybody, if he could. That was from Bannon rather than him. Trump doesn't care about any of it. That's the one part that was new to me, and doesn't obviously fit his public image.

(eta) When I posted on Facebook the other day that I'd finished it, a couple of others that were wavering asked if I'd recommend reading it, and I said that if you're not already sure you'd be interested, then I wouldn't bother. Only my own opinion, of course. It's interesting, but if you're only casually interested then you'll have got the gist of it from other coverage anyway. Most of the most bizarre parts have already been reported. If on the other hand you find the whole thing fascinating, then go ahead and read it.
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Old 24 January 2018, 08:00 PM
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Most of the reviews I've read are strongly suspicious of many of the details offered, and cite the lack of sourcing as a flaw; on the other hand, they suspect the over-all impression of the administration created by the book is correct. (I don't know how much of that might be confirmation bias, however.)
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Old 24 January 2018, 11:28 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by E. Q. Taft View Post
Most of the reviews I've read are strongly suspicious of many of the details offered, and cite the lack of sourcing as a flaw ...
Yes, that's what's a bit odd about the decision I mentioned above to leave himself out of it. Even in cases where it's clear he could have said "I know this because the named person said it to me directly" or "I was there and heard it myself", he doesn't. Those parts could easily have been sourced very well, but in the book, aren't. Which makes the parts that probably are well-sourced look weaker, and also makes you wonder why he didn't go with strong sources on those bits - is it because the other parts are things he happened to overhear, or general gossip that would have looked weak by comparison, or what? From his introduction, it does seem that he got a lot of it just from hanging around in the White House having the occasional casual conversation, because nobody was organised enough to specify exactly what he was meant to be doing there.
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