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Literary Glance: Fire and Fury by Michael Wolff

January 16, 2018

At first, I wasn’t going to write about Fire and Fury by Michael Wolff.     I figured there’s already enough stuff about this book out there, so the world doesn’t need me piling on.

Besides, it’s dangerous to talk about politics nowadays, much less write about it.  The topic of Fire and Fury came up at work last week, and that led to an argument between a Trump supporter and a Trump hater.  It went from politics, and then started to get into generalities about who was a racist and who was a globalist, and then it started to get personal.  The whole thing was pointless because these exchanges never change anybody’s mind, so I reluctantly stepped in:

“C’mon, guys!” I said, trying to fake some positivity.  “It doesn’t matter who you vote for.  Both of you have the same values.  You raise your families the same way.  Both of you work hard and are honest.  You even cheer for the same football team.  The only thing you disagree about is what the government should do about stuff.”

The coworkers looked at me funny, probably because I’m known as the monotone quiet guy.  Then one coworker told me to mind my own business and the other one called me a f***ing eavesdropper, and that was that.  Their argument was over.  They were united against a common enemy, me.

I don’t like being the common enemy, but I guess it’s okay because the coworkers forgot their disagreement.  This is how politics can poison relationships if people approach these discussions the wrong way.  And that’s why I was reluctant to mention this book on my blog.

But I can’t ignore a book that gets so much attention.  Fire and Fury got a lot of hype before it came out, so much that it was guaranteed to be a bestseller.  I wish I could get that much hype for one of my books.  Maybe I should write about Donald Trump.  But if everybody wrote about Donald Trump, then none of the books would be bestsellers.  It would be a Ponzi scheme of Trump books; only the first Trump books would make money, and by the time I finished mine, it would be too late.

The main criticism of Fire and Fury is that the information presented is contradictory and interviewees are saying it’s inaccurate.  I don’t know much about that because I’ve read only the first couple chapters.  From my point of view, this feels like a book that was written too quickly.  Even if I wasn’t nitprickety, I’d think it felt rushed.

For example, in Prologue: Ailes and Bannon, a lot of sentences are loaded with interrupters that disrupt the flow of the prose:

Now, however reluctantly, Ailes understood that, at least for the moment, he was passing the right-wing torch to Bannon.  It was a torch that burned bright with ironies.  Ailes’s Fox News, with its $1.5 billion in annual profits, had dominated Republican politics for two decades.  Now Bannon’s Breitbart News, with its mere $1.5 million in annual profits, was claiming that role.  For thirty years, Ailes- until recently the single most powerful person in conservative politics- had humored and tolerated Donald Trump, but in the end Bannon and Breitbart had elected him.

I wonder if anybody took the time to read the words out loud to hear how all these sentences sound together.  If you take out the interrupters, I don’t think much meaning is lost and the sentences would have a better rhythm.  That’s an editing dispute that reasonable people can disagree about.

However, there are writing errors in this book that are obvious mistakes:

In early August, less than a month after Ailes had been ousted from Fox News, Trump asked his old friend to take over the management of his calamitous campaign.  Ailes, knowing Trump’s disinclination to take advice, or even listen to it, turned it down.  This was the job Bannon a week later.

What?  I want to know what the verb in that last sentence was supposed to be.

Supposedly, this wasn’t the only outright error in Fire and Fury.  In a couple places the L in the word public is missing (making it pubic).  That looks like the kind of mistake that’s done on purpose.

I admit, I make plenty of mistakes on my blog.  I’ve left out words.  I’ve used words incorrectly.  But I don’t get paid.  And I also don’t have an editor.  And nobody expects me to write books that can embarrass a presidency.  I just embarrass myself.

Maybe Michael Wolff doesn’t care if there are errors in his book.  Maybe he’s the type of person who doesn’t care when others say he is careless and factually incorrect.  That makes sense; the author who is accused of being careless and factually incorrect has written a book portraying a president who is accused of being careless and factually incorrect.  In other words, Fire and Fury is just another day of media and politics.  I’m gonna go back to reading fiction.

  1. Ehhh, I’m still debating on whether I want to read this or not. I kind’ve do, but I also know it’s going to be a mess too so I kind’ve don’t.

    • If you know ahead of time that it’s going to be a mess, reading it might be fun.

      I probably wouldn’t buy it, though. That just encourages publishers to print out more messes.

      • Yeah, that’s true. I do have some gift card book money though so I could always use that to get it. 🤔🤔🤔

  2. You want to go back to reading fiction? Well, you might want to go back to reading Fire and Fury, because all the pro-Trump people say the book is 100% fiction.

  3. Why wouldn’t an editor catch mistakes though? Isn’t that what editors do?

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