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Saturday, July 12, 2008

Department of Book Reports: Smells Like Dead Elephants

A few weeks back, when I asked "What are you reading?" Pissed Off Patricia mentioned Smells Like Dead Elephants: Dispatches from a Rotting Empire, by Matt Taibbi (Grove Atlantic, $14.00). There was an ARC at the house we were staying at so I borrowed it.

Since it was a publisher's Advance copy, there wasn't finished art or cover copy, other than the Washington Post saying "A political reporter with the gonzo spirit that made Hunter S Thompson and P. J. O'Rourke so much fun." As I started reading, I thought this guy must be writing for Rolling Stone, no one else would print this stuff! And indeed, the essays start when he got an editorial job at Rolling Stone.

Taibbi spends time with Bernie Sanders, watching him try to address the House Rules Committee and present 4 amendments, all of which have bi-partisan support. As he describes the lobbyist leprechaun rules that govern DC, it becomes a mirror fun house, all bent on not really doing anything.

"It's funny," Sanders says. "When I first came to Congress, I'd been mayor of Burlington, Vermont - a professional politician. And I didn't know any of this. I assumed that if you get majorities in both houses, you win. I figured it's democracy, right?"

Well, that's what they call it, anyway.

Taibbi attempts to see Cindy Sheehan during the first sit in near Crawford, trying to get past her oh so protective handlers. In Oct 05, he goes to New Orleans with Sean Penn, whose star power is often the only thing that gets them past the barricades for his article Apocalypse There. Later in the book, How To Steal a Coastline from April 06 will show what a massive land grab reconstruction has been. Taibbi is truly humbled by these experiences.

Fort Apache Iraq, Darwinian Warfare, or the Worst Congress Ever, it's really hard to pick my favorite essay. They will all enrage you. This volume tempts me to subscribe to Rolling Stone again, after some 24 years. But I will keep Matt Taibbi's name handy for googling.

This really is a great recommend, thanks so much P.O.P.!

Smells Like Dead Elephants originally came out in Oct 07, so you may have to have your Fine Independent Bookstore order it for you. Or ask your favorite librarian.

So, what are you reading this week?

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We'll try dumping haloscan and see how it works.