Imagine having very rich, slightly distant, relatives you hate (and perhaps are secretly jealous of). Now imagine you are at a big fat wedding, where you meet another relative—also rich, and also despicable in some ways—who begins to dish out the dirt, by the cartload, about those rich relatives. Every scrap of gossip and juicy tidbit that had been whispered about, with varying degrees of credibility and incredulity, suddenly appears to get a fresh coat of vetting, thanks to the proximity and trust that this rich relative seems to enjoy with those very rich relatives. Even if you wonder how much of it is actually true, snarky gossip about those rich relatives feels just so darned good!
Reading Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury
is like sitting at the big fat wedding, taking in all the dope that we so long believed to be beyond anyone’s reach on US President Donald Trump.
Wolff, who claimed in an interview to Time
, that “Anybody who’s spending time around the White House knows a lot of what I know. Or most of what I know. They just aren’t writing it” writes as much about Trump himself, as about the people around him—most notably one-time chief strategist Steve Bannon, daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner—and the continuous stream of crises, chaos and cajoling going on in the Trump White House. A “full monty of Trumpland” is what Wolff called it.
Wolff claims the book is based on conversations, with the president, members of his senior staff and others, over 18 months. These innumerable bits create the picture of a clutch of wholly incompetent and unprepared people who suddenly find themselves thrust with the kind of power they had only dreamt of, but never imagined themselves capable of getting or handling.
Narrating election night developments, Wolff writes, “There was, in the space of little more than an hour, in Steve Bannon’s not unamused observation, a befuddled Trump morphing into a disbelieving Trump and then into a quite horrified Trump. But still to come was the final transformation: Suddenly, Donald Trump became a man who believed that he deserved to be and was wholly capable of being the president of the United States.”
What followed, and what we continue to witness, is one of the most divisive presidencies in the United States, with the potential of far-reaching global consequences.
Although the book is written chronologically, you could turn to any chapter and read it as a standalone. Replete with a fire-hose of anecdotes, it is a highly entertaining read about a vast crew of supporting actors—billionaire donors, media moguls, Silicon Valley hot shots, senior government aides, petulant counsellors and communications officers—and the thin ice that they walk on while dealing with Trump. However, if you are not clued in to every detail of US administrative protocol or to the names that Wolff constantly drops, your eyes could glaze over once in a while.
That all of this should come from Wolff is what makes it more interesting. Disliked by much of New York’s news reporters for his disregard for journalistic ethics and practices, and questioned repeatedly over the veracity of his claims, this is not the first tell-all-style book he has penned: In 2010, he wrote Rupert Murdoch’s biography, The Man Who Owns the News: Inside the Secret World of Rupert Murdoch
, “a book that he deeply detested”, says Wolff. And yet, for all his snarky comments and derisive observations about the rich and famous, Wolff himself has been accused by the media of hankering to be part of the swish set.
But none of this seriously comes in the way of enjoying the insider edition of all that goes on within the most famous government office in the world. Name: Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House
Author: Michael Wolff
Publisher: Little Brown
Price: ₹700 (paperback)
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(This story appears in the 02 February, 2018 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)