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Shut Up, I'm Talking: And Other Diplomacy Lessons I Learned in the Israeli Government--A Memoir Hardcover – April 22, 2008


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Editorial Reviews

Review

"A funny, sometimes horrifying look at the inner workings of international government agencies.... [Levey] makes speechwriting seem cooler than even Aaron Sorkin imagined.... Read it for the hilarity and the keen portraiture, but try to pretend these people don't actually make decisions about the fate of the world." -- Kirkus Reviews


"This brilliant and blindingly funny book is like a nonfictional season of The West Wing set in the Knesset. If you ever wanted an insider tale about why the Middle East is such a complicated, heartrending, and yet unbelievably compelling saga then look no further. Gregory Levey has captured the soul of this conflict with charm, grace, and diplomatic wit." -- Matthew Polly, author of American Shaolin
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"A funny, sometimes horrifying look at the inner workings of international government agencies.... [Levey] makes speechwriting seem cooler than even Aaron Sorkin imagined.... Read it for the hilarity and the keen portraiture, but try to pretend these people don't actually make decisions about the fate of the world." -- Kirkus Reviews

"This brilliant and blindingly funny book is like a nonfictional season of The West Wing set in the Knesset. If you ever wanted an insider tale about why the Middle East is such a complicated, heartrending, and yet unbelievably compelling saga then look no further. Gregory Levey has captured the soul of this conflict with charm, grace, and diplomatic wit." -- Matthew Polly, author of American Shaolin --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; 1 edition (April 22, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416556133
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416556138
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.3 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,181,091 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Rick Shaq Goldstein on April 30, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
** AUTHOR'S NOTE **
"As I write this note, things don't look good in the Middle East. I'm not sure when you're reading this, but I assume that things still don't look good in the Middle East, because they never really do."
-----------------------------------------------------------

The author Gregory Levey at the age of twenty-five-years-old and not even an Israeli citizen found himself sitting alone at the State of Israel's seat at the United Nations General Assembly. An important vote was about to take place, and he not only didn't know which way to vote on the resolution... he didn't even know what the resolution was!

This humorous and almost satirical yet somber situation was all set in motion innocently enough when Greg became bored in his second year of law school. The author being Jewish and a Canadian citizen going to school in New York decided to volunteer to serve in the Israeli army. After he signed up on-line for the army he still had a number of months ahead of him until he had to report to Israel. Unwilling to accept the monotonous months of waiting ahead he decided to apply for an internship at the Israeli Mission to the United Nations. What follows could provide enough fodder for a full season of hilarious sitcom material. As Greg followed up on his application, over and over again, without any positive results, he showed dogged determination and made yet another phone call to yet another person who told him to fax his resume directly to her. After still no response Greg gave up on the whole idea and left for Christmas break.

After he returned to New York in January he got a strange call from a man named Yaron from Israeli security.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By LRE on September 11, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I was pretty much fed-up with this exercise in self-aggrandizement by the time I hit this passage at the end of the book:

"There is a common type of conversation mockingly called 'Jewish Geography,' in which one Jewish person gives a name or a long list of names to another to see if there is any mutual acquaintance, on the implicit theory that somewhere in the matrix of interfaced Jewish relationships, the two are connected. This little game had always aggravated me; it seemed primitive and tribal, and vaguely to confirm certain anti-Semitic clichés."

If you, too, are aggravated by Jewish Geography or think that it affirms some anti-Semitic cliché, then maybe you'll like the rest of this book. For me, this passage only confirms what I grew to feel as I got further into the book: That the author, Mr. Levey, is an immature young man who had neither the background nor big picture appreciation for what he was doing.
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19 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Inna Tysoe VINE VOICE on September 14, 2008
Format: Hardcover
In his Author's Note, Gregory says that he wrote his tale of his failure (he doesn't call it that of course) in the service of the Israeli Government because "sometimes it's the comic details that best reflect the gravity of the larger picture." And he certainly wrote a hilarious, page-turner or a sad book. But it was sad for me at least because it was so obvious that Greg just didn't get it.

For years Greg worked for a country whose people and institutions are in profound transition. (And who are not at all sure they want to transform.) The transition is from a kibbutz-style country, a family; to a bureaucratized state with attendant civil institutions. From a big family where the cab driver gives the Prime Minister advice to a place where autonomous individuals take official rules and the arbitrary hierarchy those rules impose very seriously indeed. For years Greg worked (and even lived) in a place that only has the trappings of a bureaucracy but no actual bureaucracy--and for years he didn't see that.

At one point he tells his fiancée that Israel is a big family. But I never got the sense that he stopped to think what that might entail. In a family, you don't have a bureaucracy or rules. In a family, if a bunch of kids want a treat, they just stampede to the grown-up handing the treats out and the loudest ones get it first. In a family, if you want to get hired you don't follow formal protocol; you call someone. As Greg had to in the end call someone to get his job in the Mission.

But Israel, the state, can't just be a family. Because so much attention is directed at it, it is being forced to change. To become more bureaucratic. More like "a regular country". Or at least its civil institutions are undergoing that transition.
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14 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Sarah Schwartz on January 11, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I could see why Greg Levey's book would be interesting to someone who hasn't spent much time in Israel and doesn't know much about the country. For someone who knows a little about the country, though, less than 25% of the book is particularly entertaining.

Much of the story is that Israelis are Israeli: simultaneously warm and rude, bureaucratic and disorganized, very serious about security and lax about everything else, and always always late. But you can find that out by walking into any Israeli government office to get a visa renewal or a tax exemption. Or from any of Efraim Kishon's books or films from the 1960s, which are far funnier. Levey tells many of the same anecdotes that everyone who has ever lived in Israel tells with humor, but he coats them in bitter outrage. Incidents are told in proportion to his irritation rather than humor: 3 pages cover a co-worker's obsession with baked potatoes, as if there were no eccentric co-workers outside Israel. Likewise "the worst person you'll ever meet" in Levey's eyes is an irresponsible and rude bureaucrat. Inshe allah that should be the worse person any of us ever meet.

Yes, we get it: Levey's sense of humor isn't good enough to allow him to tolerate the frustrations of Israel. He gives only one positive anecdote: workers donating part of their paychecks to help a co-worker with cancer whom none of them know.

Levey's experience taking security courses in Tel Aviv is a side of Israel that most people wouldn't have see, as are those seen from inside the government, though those are sparse.
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