Michael Wolff’s bestselling FIRE AND FURY rode into bookstores Friday on a fiery wave of buzz, hype, and hysteria. The latter response coming directly from the White House, when an enraged POTUS threatened the book’s publisher with a lawsuit, and Henry Holt responded by moving up the pub date and printing more copies.
The impulse to gobble down a behind-the-scenes political book is often a guilty pleasure. Hell, it’s fun to feast on nasty revelations and dive deep into the “dirt.” FIRE AND FURY, however, offers more. Although many of the juiciest tidbits have already leaked out, the book is still well worth reading. It not only provides deft descriptions of its bizarre cast of characters, but offers memorable passages that rise high above the usual political hack-job. The sheer transcendent style of the writing makes this special. It reads like a novel by Terry Southern (think Flash and Filigree and The Magic Christian), with a strange menacing undertow below the surface.
Wolff dissects the dark heart of Trumpism with cunning, cadence, and wit, and lays bare the chaos and malice that storms inside the administration. Hundreds of interviews are skillfully woven into the narrative in a manner that dispels the fog with shocking clarity. The daily web of hard-to-follow machinations are shaped into a tale that — despite its absurdity — is graspable.
Since there were no physical copies of the book available in Sonoma County, I bit the bullet and downloaded the e-book. While reading the first fifty pages, I found myself frequently using the highlighter tool to preserve paragraphs for reading aloud later or sharing with friends.
Here are two examples; the first on Trump’s inaugural address:
Much of the sixteen-minute speech was part of Bannon’s daily joie de guerre patter—his take-back-the-country America-first, carnage-everywhere vision for the country. But it actually became darker and more forceful when filtered through Trump’s disappointment and delivered with his golf face. The administration purposely began on a tone of menace—a Bannon-driven message to the other side that the country was about to undergo profound change. Trump’s wounded feelings—his sense of being shunned and unloved on the very day he became president—helped send that message. When he came off the podium after delivering his address, he kept repeating, “Nobody will forget this speech.”
George W. Bush, on the dais, supplied what seemed likely to become the historic footnote to the Trump address: “That’s some weird shit.”
Here’s Wolff’s description of the dual-realties theory of Trump politics:
This had led increasingly to the two-different-realities theory of Trump politics. In the one reality, which encompassed most of Trump’s supporters, his nature was understood and appreciated. He was the antiwonk. He was the counterexpert. His was the gut call. He was the everyman. He was jazz (some, in the telling, made it rap), everybody else an earnest folk music. In the other reality, in which resided most of his antagonists, his virtues were grievous if not mental and criminal flaws. In this reality lived the media, which, with its conclusion of a misbegotten and bastard presidency, believed it could diminish him and wound him (and wind him up) and rob him of all credibility by relentlessly pointing out how literally wrong he was.
Beyond the leaked revelations, exquisite writing and sharp analysis make FIRE AND FURY a must.
It’s not just another guilty pleasure.
Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House
by michael wolff
henry holt & co. 336 pages