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Smells Like Dead Elephants: Dispatches from a Rotting Empire First Edition Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 38 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0802170415
ISBN-10: 0802170412
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Extremely funny and breathtaking in his ferocity."

"Taibbi may be the only political writer in America that matters."

"Certainly the funniest...look at the [2004 presidential] campaign."

From "one of the funniest and most honest American political journalists"

"The funniest angry book and the angriest funny book since Hunter S. Thompson roared into town."

"A political reporter with the gonzo spirit that made Hunter S. Thompson and P.J. O'Rourke so much fun...Taibbi also exhibits a fairly sophisticated knowledge of the inner workings of Congress."

"Matt Taibbi is one of the few journalists I read because I want to, not because I have to. His detached contempt is pitch perfect. He'll piss you off and make you laugh out loud, usually within the space of a single paragraph."

"Not so much a campaign diary as it is a compelling, and somewhat chaotic, mix of reporting, anecdote, social commentary, and rant. In each piece, Taibbi's rage and humor bleeds through, making this a vivid and very personal critique of both politics and the mainstream journalists who cover it....It's hard not to be engrossed by the eccentric characters, entertaining scenarios, and rich details that drive [Taibbi's] stories."

About the Author

MATT TAIBBI is a roving national reporter for "Rolling Stone" and a columnist for rollingstone.com. He's the author of "Spanking the Donkey, "a collection of his writings about the 2004 election. He lives in New York City.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press, Black Cat; First Edition edition (October 10, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802170412
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802170415
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #132,595 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
In spite of the off-putting title, this book is a delectable collection of Taibbi's habit-forming Rolling Stone essays on politics in the Bush era. His topics range from Michael Jackson to Lynndie England to (my favorite) Tom DeLay.
He fearlessly travels to New Orleans (with Sean Penn, as it happens) to see the Katrina disaster firsthand; he gets embedded with the troops in Iraq, then dis-embeds to go inside Abu Ghraib in the company of a mercenary. He is suitably appreciative and humble in the company of the soldiers (but not the contractors) with whom he is traveling. But the most horrifying story may be the one about Taibbi's time in the company of Bernie Sanders, the independent Congressman from Vermont, as bills he works on in the Republican Congress get snuffed out one by one. Whatever rules used to exist are either ignored or rewritten, all without regard for fairness or decency or even, quite possibly, for legality. It's the most stunning up-close look at a dysfunctional government a reader could stand.
Taibbi has been referred to as a "gonzo" journalist, and indeed there is a bit--just enough--of his "self" in the reporting; but he is mainly a deeply insightful observer and chronicler of things unseemly and egregious. While I regretted the very occasional occurrence of a superfluous four-letter word (usually, they appear in just the right places, one of his stylistic gifts), he seldom makes these gaffes, and his writing is almost always pure art. He does not write like an angel: he writes like a sharp-eyed, been-there done-that, hard-nosed, soft-hearted reporter with a mission to write the truth and a clear sense of the poignant. While his view is deeply and appropriately cynical, he has a superb sense of humor and command of language, and underneath it all, an unmistakable sweet soul.
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Format: Paperback
As a longtime fan of Hunter S. Thompson's political reporting and social commentary I was first exposed to Matt Taibbi when i learned that he had inherited the very same job that the good Dr. HST held at the Foriegn Affairs Desk at Rolling Stone magazine. Pretty bold move to take that one on because nobody (I thought) could inherit that mantle from HST and do it justice. Well, I was wrong. Matt did it and did it well.

This book is a collection or articles (I assume from various sources - I don't recall seeing all of these in Rolling Stone). He takes us to see places and meet people we already think we know from the news stories of the day (or yesterday) and manages to make the stories (some now old and lame) fresh and new in the process.

My only complaint is the same one I had upon reading HST - severe depression at the state of our government and our fellow humans. Damn but the truth is painful and this book is full of truth.

You will love it. If you don't, there is probably something wrong with you.
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Format: Paperback
This book is a masterful creation of reality, snark, wit and intellect. Matt shines the light of truth on just how far gone our government is. You can find him on the show Real Time With Bill Maher often. That is how I found out about him and his book. It's so refreshing and disheartening to read this book. You never get the real story from TV news on just how incredibly broken every part of Washington DC is. This is probably one of the best books I have read in a while.
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This book is worth reading just for the "Katrina" rescue mission chapter, but I enjoyed the entire thing. I especially liked the excerpts of Randy "Duke" Cunningham's letter whining about how nothing was really his fault, and the astute observation by Matt Taibbi that Cunningham is "too stupid to be ashamed."

Until a few years ago, I had assumed that the people who were in charge must be reasonably smart. At the very least, they were educated. They might lack ethics and morals, but they must have done something to deserve the respected positions they're in.

Members of Congress are exposed as not even being able to write a simple letter without irrational capitalizing and nonsensical sentences. It clears up the question of "What the hell is going on?" that people have been asking themselves when they weren't so completely busy struggling to survive that they had a minute to think.

I hope they start requiring this book in high schools in order that kids understand the importance of voting, education, and the consequences of actions (ours and "theirs.") Matt Taibbi takes a normally boring subject and not only makes it interesting, but funny. I laughed out loud at the description of the helicopter dropping him a meal while simultaneously stirring up the disease water of the Katrina flood as he stood in it, begging them to get lost.

If you're interested to know what the people allegedly "helping" us have really been doing, read this book.
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Format: Paperback
Matt Taibbi says it like it is when he asserts that Congress has become an excercise of raw power w/no principles, and in that environment corruption has flourished. It has hijacked the national treasury, frantically ceded power to the executive, and sold off the federal government in a private auction. He details the five easy steps they accomplished this by: 1)Rule By Cabal 2) Work As Little As Possible - And Screw Up What Little You You Do 3) Let The President Do Whatever He Wants 4) SPEND SPEND SPEND 5)Line Your Own Pockets. But you could boil the whole sordid mess down to a few basic concepts. Sloth. Greed. Abuse of Power.
I especially like the author's succinct descriptions/as in the intellectual "neocon" advisors - a group of people so stupid they could only have been bred in expensive graduate schools. Or his description of a witness in the Michael Jackson trial - she expressed herself almost exclusively in saccharine, retch-inducing platitudes of the sort one might hear on Oprah or at a motivational retreat for recovering glue addicts.
But it is his astute political observations that make him a pleasure to read - The House Rules Committee is perhaps the free world's outstanding bureucratic abomination/a tiny, airless closet deep in the labyrinth of the Capitol where some of the very meanest people on earth spend their days cleaning democracy like a fish. If you control the Rules Committe, you control congress. A singular example of this was when the first Patriot Act/to the Rules Committe was delivered for consideration. They trashed this biparttisan version and replaced it w/ a completely different bill that had been written years ago/ ?
If your like me you'll love his character descriptions/ex.
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