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Fly Fishing with Darth Vader: And Other Adventures with Evangelical Wrestlers, Political Hitmen, and Jewish Cowboys Hardcover – February 9, 2010

4.3 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Journalist Labash takes readers to the fringes in his portraits of people and places outside the mainstream and, very often, beyond our ken. His subjects are outlandish and unforgettable: take Dave Mudcat Saunders, the hunting, cussing, NASCAR-loving political strategist who promises to deliver the rural white vote for the Democrats. Or Kinky Friedman, the Jewish cowboy running for governor of Texas under the campaign slogan Why the Hell Not? His profiles of disgraced former Washington, D.C., mayor Marion Barry, corrupt former Louisiana governor Edwin Edwards, Rev. Al Sharpton, and Vice President Dick Cheney stand out for their affecting portrayals of the humanity behind the larger-than-life personas. On occasion, Labash settles for lampoon and ad hominem attacks rather that insightful critique, as in his too-easy rant against Facebook or his mean-spirited report from the floor of an academic conference on adult entertainment. But when he sticks to profiling the antics of the lunatic journalists, political hacks, and ego-loving candidates that he so clearly adores, he gives readers a real glimpse at the strangeness and silliness that suffuse American political life. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

For the article that lends its title to the book, Weekly Standard writer Labash went fly-fishing with then vice president Dick Cheney and recalls another, more appealing and passionate side of the famously taciturn man. Labash locates the quirkiness in a variety of political figures in this essay collection. He admits to liking the almost universally disliked Republican operative Roger Stone, who delights in political intrigue more than political ideology. Among others Labash profiles are former Washington, D.C., mayor Marion Barry and former California gubernatorial candidate and now governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. On popular culture, he skewers Facebook, lambastes Markos Moulitsas Zuñiga of Daily Kos fame and netroot bloggers in general, and explores the complexities of a Christian professional wrestler and a redneck Democrat. The book begins with a heartfelt portrait of Detroit as the nation’s ashtray, chronicling efforts of his friend and Detroit News reporter Charlie LeDuff to save a dying city, and closes with a loving look at post-Katrina New Orleans through the eyes of musicians, including a ragtag jazz-funk band. Whatever their politics, readers will appreciate Labash’s energetic style and biting insights. --Vanessa Bush

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 1 edition (February 9, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1439159971
  • ISBN-13: 978-1439159972
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #189,946 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Matt Labash is a senior writer at The Weekly Standard, where he has worked since 1995. He lives in Owings, Maryland, with his wife and two children.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Sam on February 26, 2010
Format: Hardcover
The book is a collection of long form journalism stories most of which were originally written for the Weekly Standard. Despite what you might think though if that was your only knowledge the book is 1. Not really a political book in any partisan sense and 2. Quite edgy. The book starts with a portrait of Detroit, that is compelling but perhaps uneccesarilly hopeless and ends with a piece on New Orleans which was my favorite in between are a number of pieces on political eccentrics including Donald Trump, Al Sharpton, Jim Traficant, Marian Berry and fringe California gubernatorial and presedential candidates. Sprinkled in between are stories about topics ranging from a pseudo-academic porn convention, dodgeball, facebook, a cd collection of spirituals, and a dailykos bloggers convention in Vegas. Throughout Labash is funny and insightful. Occasionally he does veer towards being too cynical such as in the piece about the Kos convention, though it should be noted that his objections had more to do with the form of communication on Kos and not the content perse.

A WSJ article I read compared Labash to Tom Wolfe or Hunter Thompson. I can't speak for the Thompson, comparison but the Wolfe comparison while not completely off base is a little misleading. Most of Labash's works have a much more overtly comedic tone to them Wolfe's writings, think of it as being like Joel Stein doing long form journalism.
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Format: Hardcover
Humor, scandal, and/or empathy writers usually wear thin before the third chapter - their talent isn't that good, or the material is a badly dated collection of material most no longer have any interest n. Not so with Matt Labash - he's good to the last page, even though the material is a wee bit old.

Labash begins with "Detroit - The City where Sirens Never Sleep," and tells of schools that haven't ordered new textbooks in 19 years and the lowest high school graduation rate of any large district (24.9%), a city with half the population of 1950 and an estimated 60,000 vacant houses that once gave its key to the city to Saddam Hussein. Where 47% of adults are functionally illiterate, the local football team was 0-14, and the populace has been honored as America's 'fattest city,' and its 'sexual disease capital.' The sirens never stop - driven by arson in abandoned homes, factories; its abandoned train station may be next. At the same time, Labash also visits with a homeless person living under a bridge, and possessing more common sense than most of those driving overhead.

The title, "Fly Fishing with Darth Vader" obviously refers to V.P. Cheney. Expecting a nasty hit piece, I instead found a delightful story of another side of Mr. Cheney - an ordinary guy with a strong interest in fly-fishing and those who do it. It's all 'catch and release' - even the trout come out good, and I can't wait to see more the great Wyoming scenery described by Labash as he fly-fishes with the V.P.

Other treats include the life of an evangelical wrestler, and executives and managers acting like kids in an effort to keep employees happy so they, in turn, keep customers happy.
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Format: Hardcover
Matt Labash is an extremely out of the ordinary writer and observer. His book contains 23 of his pieces ranging from the terribly devastating chapter on Detroit that is more than pitiful in its' descriptions of the conditions there, that you can't help laughing in the awfulness of its accuracy. He visits New Orleans and the dreadful effects of Katrina. He follows a luddite's path down the facebook road and down the Snake River with Dick Cheney... the Darth Vader of fly fishing.
We learn the physical damage? that dodge ball has done our nation's children, of course with the added `horrors ` of duck duck goose and musical chairs, actually citing studies form the Department of Health.
Lovers of Canada and Gordon Lightfoot- Labash has you in his sights as well.
He writes an startlingly sympathetic portrait of Marion Barry and one of the seriously most affecting accounts of 9/11 with the story of Edlene LaFrance whose husband died in the collapse of the Twin Towers.
There is the humorous, the interesting and some sorrow; but always interesting reading in this book.
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Format: Hardcover
I spend a fair amount of time hanging out with Dave "Mudcat" Saunders, and Labash nails that profile while finding humor in all the man's complexities. He does a tour of politic's characters. He's found the right people, and Labash knows how to render them, taking them right down to the wood. It's a great read.

Roland Lazenby
author of Jerry West, The Life And Legend Of A Basketball Icon
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Format: Hardcover
This is a collection of twenty-three of Mr. Labash's previously published magazine articles from "The Weekly Standard" and "Salon." The reader has his or her choice about whether to sample humorous entrees of such items as "Detroit: The City Where the Sirens Never Sleep", "Yippie Kay Oy Vey: Kinky Friedman Runs fro Governor", "Arnold Uber Alles: The Wild, Final Days of the Schwarzenegger Campaign", "Trump on the Stump", "Rev Gotta Eat: Al Sharpton's Hungry for a Place at the Table, " or "Fly Fishing With Darth Vader."
Naturally, after looking over the entire buffet, I went directly to the items that seemed to wet my appetite the most--the desserts. I chose two spicy dishes of tarts and cheesecake appropriately entitled "Among the Pornographers."
"This odd assemblage has gathered for a four-day World Pornography Conference in the Universal Sheraton, amid the strip-mall sprawl of the San Fernando Valley, porn production capital of the world. The meeting is sponsored by the Center for Sex Research at California State University, Northridge--a sort of Left Coast Kinsey Institute."
More than 500 "academics--sociologists, anthropologists, sexologists, film and gender studies teachers, and interdisciplinary seekers from across the country--are attending under the guise of studying `Eroticism and the First Amendment.' But the real aim is simpler: to celebrate pornography." The place is awash in exotic porn stars and samples of the world of porn. The various college types hope to vastly improve their own college or university's collection of porn. The Northridge Center is hoping "to get more [Pornography] deposits from the industry--so we'll have the biggest porn collection in the country.
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