Saturday, April 21, 2018

"Fire & Fury" by Michael Wolff

Full disclosure: I am no fan of the current occupant of the White House.  (I am also Canadian, so there's not much I can do about it, lol -- even though U.S. politics has a huge impact on what happens to us, north of the border.)

So when my sister sent me a copy of "Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House" by Michael Wolff, I immediately dove into it. "Fire and Fury" was a publishing sensation and an instant best-seller when it was released earlier this year. It's a fly-on-the-wall look at the Trump campaign, transition and the first 9-10 months of the administration.

By now, most of the book's biggest bombshells have been well-publicized. So there wasn't a whole lot of new (to me) information -- and what there was, was not particularly surprising or unexpected, given what we already know (or suspect) about the man and his administration.  ;)  The book confirmed the negative impressions I already had, and it will probably do the same if you're of a similar mind. ;)  (I can't imagine too many Trump fans reading this book...!)

My biggest takeaways:  (1) this man is supremely unqualified to be President of the United States, and (2) this is definitely no way to run a government -- or business, for that matter (which might explain why so many of Trump's businesses and projects have gone down the tubes over the years).

The book is a page turner -- an easy, gossipy read, more focused on personalities and palace intrigue than policy.  Is it a scholarly work, or a serious work of journalism?  No. There are no footnotes, little documentation, a ton of anonymous sources (he claims to have interviewed more than 200 people, including Trump himself)(Steve Bannon most certainly WAS interviewed, extensively) and the liberal use of "reconstructed" conversations. (It's not always clear whether Wolff himself was in on the conversation, or whether he's repeating what he heard from someone who was.)

Moreover, there are a number of small, sloppy errors that detract from the quality of the book -- spelling (mispelled names -- which, in journalism school, would have earned me an automatic zero on the assignment, no matter how good the rest of the article was), stylistic inconsistencies, incorrect job titles, repetition, etc.  (These sorts of errors are also a huge pet peeve of mine with communications emanating from the President and his White House -- completely apart from the actual content of messages themselves...!).  It rambles a fair bit, especially toward the end, which comes rather abruptly. (I'd be curious to know why Wolff decided to end the book at the the point that he did. Why not a full year vs 10 months?)  I suspect the book was rushed through the editing process in order to get it into print faster. It would have benefited from a fine-tooth combing-over by a good proofreader &/or editor.

Despite its flaws, does it have an overall ring of truth about it?  Knowing what we know about Trump from more than a full year of observing his presidency, and from more meticulous, traditional, verified reporting from many other sources -- I would say yes.

Is it entertaining? You bet. ;)  I would give it a 3.5 stars on Goodreads.

As the Irish Times noted in its review:
...ultimately Fire and Fury is the kind of book that the 45th president of the United States deserves.  
By disrupting the boundaries between fact and fiction, objective reporting and supposition, author and subject, Michael Wolff has written the perfect accompaniment to Trumpism. Having railed against the “fake news” media while showing an utter disregard for truth, Trump can hardly complain that a book on his presidency plays with the facts.
In the post-truth world of alternative facts that Trump has spawned, Fire and Fury is truly a book of its time.
This was book #7 that I've read so far in 2018, bringing me to 29% of my 2018 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 24 books.  I am -- so far! ;)  -- on track to meet my goal.  :) 

1 comment:

  1. Interesting. The errors and sloppiness would irritate me too. They devalue any truth or good work that might be there. But yes, I'd quite like to read the gossipy bits!