Book review: “Fire and Fury” is the hottest book of 2018 — too bad it’s so dull

The excerpts from Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury” that began to run in early January read like a strychnine cocktail.

President Donald Trump excoriated his former chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, who had talked extensively and intemperately for the book, and became notably hysterical, even for him, on Twitter. Readers dissected the available tidbits so passionately that Wolff’s publishers pushed up the date the tell-all would arrive in stores. More than one Uber driver asked me what else I thought the book would reveal.

But now I’ve read “Fire and Fury,” and it’s clear that Wolff has managed a feat even more daunting than turning a nonfiction book into a genuine phenomenon: He has written a chronicle of the Trump administration that, vicious excerpts aside, is a real slog to get through.

The figures in “Fire and Fury” often think in cliches and dated references. To Roger Ailes, Trump is “a rebel without a cause” and simultaneously someone who “would jump through hoops” to earn Rupert Murdoch’s approval. Jared Kushner warns about putting carts before horses and sees Bannon as Rasputin. Conservative media entrepreneur David Bossie invokes Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York,” while Bannon thinks of his pronouncements as “Shakespearean,” without any clear sense of what that means.

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Wolff might have used this trite language to note his subjects’ limited thinking and vocabulary. Unfortunately, though, the author seems to live in, or at least write from, the same tired universe. Throughout “Fire and Fury,” eyes of storms are always swirling, curtains are coming down, genies pop out of bottles, and the fates of various devils and clown princes hang in the balance. In the spate of three short sentences, some of Wolff’s protagonists “make it up as they went along” and “seize the day.” In one, Trump tries to “tow the accepted line … like a kid called on the carpet.”

Even if you’re just reading “Fire and Fury” for the dish, Wolff’s pseudo-insights, delivered as if they’re awe-inspiring epiphanies, generally tend toward aphorism dressed up as revelation. In a New Republic 2004 profile, Michelle Cottle suggested that Wolff wasn’t as strong when he wrote about politics as he was when dissecting wealth and New York media. That imbalance has not been rectified in the 14 years

Source:: The Denver Post – Lifestyle

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