Thursday, September 19, 2013

This Town - Mark Leibovich (Audio)

Back when this book first came out, there was a huge stir, at least on TV.  Part of our morning routine is to watch MSNBC's Squawk Box, which is primarily a business news show, but the anchors go off on random tangents as well.  And they were all practically VIBRATING over this book, their eyes all buggy and big silly grins on their faces.  Then I started hearing other news programs talking about it, and the author started showing up on the night talk shows.  When Penguin Audio sent a special e-mail to all of us audiophiles, announcing that THEY HAD THIS AUDIO FOR DOWNLOAD, I grabbed it.  It sounded like this would be book that everyone would be buzzing about, and maybe for once I won't be the last to read it.

Synopsis:  Mark Leibovich has been a reporter all his adult life, most recently employed as a New York Times chief national political correspondent.  Using the Tim Russert's funeral in 2008 (the social event of the season) as a starting point, and running through the reelection of Obama, Leibovich unleashes a snarky and fairly bi-partisan skewing of anyone and everyone involved in the machinations of "This Town", Washington D.C..  Even Obama, who started out clean and pure and above all the typical fray of the game-playing, has been called out on the carpet for sliding into the muddy, lobbyist-filled trenches with the rest of the veterans of This Town.

Very few walk away unscathed (even himself), but the author rests his attention on a number of players in the game as case studies for the egocentric self-promotion rat race that permeates our capital.  As Leibovich so eloquently states "Washington may not serve our country well, but it has in fact worked splendidly for Washington itself."  He offers example after example, in the words of someone has seen and heard it all, of the pettiness, ambition, greed, social-climbing, and obscene wealth run amuck. For nowadays, this is "a town where there are no longer Democrats and Republicans anymore in the nation's capital - just millionaires."

At times laugh-out-loud funny, other times heartbreaking, and the next minute maddening, you'll see This Town and its dirty little secrets like you never have before.

My thoughts:  Well I can now certainly understand why all the talking heads on TV were going crazy over this book.  For anyone who knows the players and the names, this is some jaw-dropping material.  Snark!  Intrigue!  Bad behavior!  I expected that it would be skewed towards one side or the other, but as the author explains, there aren't really sides any more.  The opposing factions would like you to THINK there are sides, but really everyone is in it for themselves and they understand that fighting is good for business.

There is a whole helluva lot of dirt here, but it didn't seem like a tabloid.  The prose is witty and snappy and is grounded in facts and quotes and interviews with hundreds of players.  This guy is speaking from experience.  Now, does he have anyone left speaking to him at this point?  I wonder.

I loved the insight on Obama.  I loved the insight on the Clintons.  I was amazed at the insight on some of the politicians that I thought were good, wholesome folk but are detested on Capital Hill.  I loved the swirling, chaotic, amoeba-like mass of personalities.  And now I know I would NEVER EVER want to be a part of that mess.  

But I honestly feel that much of this book was lost on me.  Like I said, I watch MSNBC every single morning, but I guess I'm not familiar with the names of the movers and the shakers.  It's like listening in on a funny story but you have no idea who the story is about, so it loses a bit of its punch.  After listening to 3/4 of the book, I got a little tired of being out of the loop.

A few words about the audio production:  Our narrator for this joyride was Joe Barrett, who has a huge resume in the field and whom I've heard several times.  He has a pleasant voice, if not necessarily theatrical.  He has the perfect sound for a book like this, with enough timing and tongue-in-cheek to keep it interesting.

Listening length:  12 hours and 15 minutes (400 pages)

3.5 out of 5 stars          



bermudaonion said...

I've never heard of this book but I'm not surprised since I rarely watch TV and never watch news programs. I doubt the book is for me because I can't stand politics.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I have heard of this but I am afraid I would find it too upsetting.

Ti said...

When I saw this review,I immediately thought of the song by the Go Go's called "This Town." I had to add it to Spotify.

As for the book, I shy away from politics in general so I probably won't ever get to this one.

Anonymous said...

This one interests me, because politics usually does, but if I didn't know all of the players being talked about then I might find it boring in that regard too. Before Gage was born I bet I would have known most of the names, but in the last three years my politic IQ has definitely fallen :)

Heidenkind said...

I never watch the news, so I'd probably be more lost than you. It sounds like a great insiders book--like if someone wrote a book about the all the book blogging gossip. lol

Julie P. said...

My husband loved this book and couldn't stop talking about it. We actually listened to a few hours of it on our family vacation. Interesting -- yes, snarky -- yes.