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.)
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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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