An Audio-Book Review: Flash! Bam! Alakazam!

Fire and Fury

Inside the Trump White House

By Michael Wolff
Published by Macmillan Audio
Read by Holter Graham

The Book:

Like most of the recent books about politicians how you feel about this book is going to be colored by your own political bent. I think a lot of people who bought it did so simply because President Trump and his representatives tried so hard to stop its release. I’ll admit that was my main reason. Certainly, had he not made such a fuss and kept his mouth shut, the book would have been released and probably forgotten after a week or two. So, before I go any further, if you are a Trump supporter, you are probably going to hate this book and not believe a word of it. And if you lean anywhere from slightly right to left of the celestial sphere, this book will give you vindication for opposing the current administration.

One of the criticisms I have heard is that it is entirely inaccurate and full of fictional accounts. That is not a good criticism. Yes, some of the details have been found to be in error or to put it bluntly; wrong, but the overall picture of an administration running on chaos with a direction that changes with the wind? Yeah, that seems to be right on the head of the proverbial nail. This is apparently not just the opinion of Michael Wolff. Supposedly, there is another upcoming book, Defiance Disorder by Fox News host, Howard Kurtz, that will corroborate the chaotic view Wolff’s book gives us. However, I haven’t heard much about that one since the initial advance releases were made two weeks ago. I think it was supposed to be released last week, but I have yet to see it. Whether it has been quietly pulled back or is being updated to include the latest… I do not know. (Correction: The name of Kurtz’s new book is Media Madness and was released on schedule. Defiance disorder was his diagnosis of Donald Trump. And if I can find a copy, maybe I’ll review that one too…)

Regardless of what you think of the content of this book, it is written entertainingly. You probably not learn anything from it you have not heard by channel surfing at news time, but Wolff does glue it all together in a rough timeline starting near the end of the campaign up until Steve Bannon left the White House. I could not help but think, “Stay tuned for next week’s episode.”

For some reason, my audio edition played the book backwards. I don’t know why this happens, but sometimes when I transfer a book to the flashdrive I listen from in my car, the chapters start from the end and work their way back to the start. When listening to a novel, I can easily overcome this by using the button that moves me to the previous track and then, as each track ends, go back to the one that should come after it. It’s a little annoying but since tracks generally last from 20 to 60 minutes, it’s not like I am constantly hitting the “Last track” button.

This time, however, I chose to listen to it in reverse order. I had already read most of the book on my Kindle Fire, so I knew how the book progressed. I also knew that the chapters are fairly self-contained. You really can open the book at random and read a chapter without finding yourself hopelessly lost, so listening to the chapters in reverse order very much opened my eyes to stuff that I had forgotten.

As the current administration bulls onward with one controversy upstaging the last at a pace that is exhausting us all, we tend to forget things that have happened or been said earlier than a few weeks ago. Hearing some of Donald Trump’s earlier pronouncements and actions after the more recent ones, really brought home how little improvement there has been in the chaotic situation at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. All that seems to have changed, in fact, is the cast of characters as fewer and fewer of those working there and speaking for the White House come forward with increasingly less experience at what they are doing.

One complaint is that Steve Bannon plays an over-riding role in the book and does not receive all the criticism he has coming to him. Wolff almost manages to make him a sympathetic character especially as Trump begins to sour on him. Frankly that was not a viewpoint I was willing to accept or even believe. It seemed to me that everyone involved tended to get what they deserved good or bad. Bannon was no exception.

In any case, even if you are a Trump supporter, I recommend reading this book. It is a view of what is happening in today’s politics and how they affect us all. As I said above, the book is entertaining and written like a novel rather than a dry treatise on poitics. That might cause some to discount what it says, but forget the details – you have probably heard them all by now anyway – and just get a feel of what it’s like to work in Trump’s administration.

…and then be thankful you have a nice humdrum and possibly boring job, because sometimes boring brings comfort.


The Audiobook:

Just as the book is written in a dramatic manner, Holter Graham makes a dramatic reading of it. I don’t know, however, if that was a good thing. Graham’s dramatic style, for me, detracted from the more serious issues Wolff brings up. In spite of the novel-like use of dialogue to push the story, the book is nonfiction and dramatic enough without the reader working hard to make it even more so.

My biggest complaint, however is that he constantly mispronounces Corey Lewandowsky’s (lu ənˈ daʊski) name. When Holter Graham says it, it comes out “Levandovsky” which may have been how it was pronounced  in the “Old Country” or not I don’t know, but not the way the person in question says it. At first I wondered that Trump had two people working for him with such similar names, but eventually I decided that Mister Graham must have been living under a rock for a year and a half and so did not really know who these people were. Is that possible?

On the other hand, I think I would really like to heard Mister Graham read some of my favorite novels, because he does it very well.

So, the book is easy to read and entertaining whether you like what Mister Wolff says or not and a window into the Trump White House in part of its first year. Some details are in error, but overall it has been proven to be right. If you have not read it, do not go by what the pundits have told you, because like in the case of most books they did not read the entire book, only the opening chapter and selected snippets the publisher tossed out ahead of the actual release. The really meaty stuff is still in there waiting for you. And, if you want to listen to the audiobook, well you will definitely not fall asleep!

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