Michael Wolff’s ‘cartoonish power dynamics among insufferable old men’

Okay, dear readers, I spent thirty minutes on Saturday reading bits of Mark Halperin –er, forgive me, Michael Wolff’s — Terry Southern novel on the stupidity of the president, and, no, it will surprise no one, including fans of the carpentered prose of political reporters who have never read fiction.

Virginia Heffernan is skeptical of the book’s literary merits — we’ll spot it among the remainders at Barnes & Noble, beside the stuffed dinosaurs and coffee table books about the War of 1812 — but merits matter less than meat.

It’s clear that Wolff uses all manner of sleight of hand — tricks common to a more reckless period in 20th century magazine journalism — to generate operatic effects in “Fire and Fury.” The dialogue, for example, is suspiciously Netflix-ready, although Wolff claims to have reported all from what he told New York was his “semi-permanent seat on a couch in the West Wing.” He conducted about 200 interviews with capricious flakes, and Wolff also has some skeletons in his sourcing closet that someone’s bound to drag out.

But who cares, really? Wolff’s dislikable. He plays by his own rules. Big surprise. No one likable or rule-bound would have been able to abide this unsavory crew — Murdoch, Bannon, Roger Ailes, or, for God’s sake, Trump — long enough to squeeze this much big, fat, soapy story out of them.

Wolff’s ace has always been his excitement about cartoonish power dynamics among insufferable old men. In the past, this excitement has been decidedly uninfectious. But this time Wolff’s subjects are not boresville “moguls” with interchangeable faces and net worths but the president of the United States and his psycho crew. And, because the world finds itself at their mercy, we’d do well to hear their fetid locker room talk interpreted by a writer who can stomach it.

Bob Woodward better hurry with his own — don’t the usual Wood-words get published the first year of a new administration?

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