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Book Review - Fire and Fury by Michael Wolff

By Diane McCurdy

We might be acutely averse to anything associated with fire in our particular area but one cannot ignore the number one, best selling non-fiction book in the nation, Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury. To begin with, it is a difficult book to review because despite the best efforts of the author, it is a partisan book. The feeling is that he really is trying to present information in a neutral manner as much as possible and I will make the same effort. However, Wolff has stated unequivocally that he has set out to document the first nine months of the most turbulent, bizarre and, at times, a malevolent period in American politics. Remember the old Chinese proverb, “May you live in interesting times”? It can be interpreted positively or negatively—as a curse.

Unless you have been under a rock somewhere there is no information in this book that hasn’t been readily available through various media but what the author gives us is intrigue, the machinations behind the events and by doing so he gives them life. I had expected something more gossipy but what I got was reasonable, logical, solid reporting. I appreciated the special talents of a writer who uses interviews and then constructs a scene. This is, of course, a double-edged sword because the creator must use his own imagination to enhance the situation and that imagination has to be disciplined. Some of the dialogue is in quotes so we must assume the words to be verbatim. Let it be known that in the acknowledgments Wolff mentions his fact checkers but lavishes much praise on his, “nuanced, sensitive and strategic” libel lawyer.

As far as content is concerned I did not realize the extent of the influence of Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner. They are referred to as “Jarvanka” an epithet supposedly coined by advisor, Steve Bannon. They are known as political neophytes who have strong opinions and perhaps presidential aspirations of their own. Bannon is characterized as obsessed with policy and could envision a presidential bid as well. Donald Jr.’s ill-advised meeting with the Russians is mentioned for its sheer inappropriateness but basically,Melania and the other Trump progeny are passed over. Comey, Spicer, Priebus all their exits are examined as are all the resulting factions jockeying for administrative influence in their absence. The point is made over and over that Trump did not expect to win so that he and his staff were ill-prepared. A wonderful comparison is made to Mel Brooks’ comedy, The Producers. The plot in that piece is predicated on the premise that in a financing ploy, a play would be produced whose script was so outrageously ridiculous that it would be doomed but it turned out to be hit. Trump turned out to be a hit. We live in an era of alternative facts and truthful hyperbole.

Sean Spicer said it most succinctly, “You can’t make this stuff up.” Only he didn’t say stuff.

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