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Spanking The Donkey: Dispatches From The Dumb Season Hardcover – April 7, 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
Collecting articles Taibbi wrote for the New York Press, the Nation and Rolling Stone while covering the 2004 presidential election, this book is not so much a campaign diary as it is a compelling, and somewhat chaotic, mix of reporting, anecdote, social commentary and rant. After spending time primarily on the Democrat trail, but also working undercover with a few Republicans in Orlando, Taibbi came to the conclusion that people on both sides of the political fence seemed to be motivated "mainly out of hatred and contempt for the guy on the other side, not inspiration or idealism." In his introduction, Taibbi points out his big problem with the 2004 elections: the red vs. blue drama kicked America into such a fervor that the "fraudulent electoral system was reaffirmed." 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. His unabashedly opinionated reporting-he writes of the antiwar marches in Washington, of following Dennis Kucinich around New Hampshire while high and of meeting John Kerry while wearing a gorilla suit-will either amuse or irritate, depending on one's political persuasion, but it's hard not to be engrossed by the eccentric characters, entertaining scenarios and rich details that drive these stories. Though the newsworthy moment for this book may have passed, Taibbi's observations about the people he meets are acute, and his criticisms of American politics and the press will still feel relevant to many.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Taibbi is partisan, cruel, and often side-splittingly funny.
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Top Customer Reviews
Matt Taibbi, who has an interesting if checkered past, is frequently compared to Hunter Thompson - probably because he sometimes indulged in a little dope while accompanying the wannabes on their campaign trails. James Wolcott -who is a very famous Giant Talking Head himself, makes that reference in Amazon's book blurbs, and you see it a lot in the political bogs. But I don't think so. Taibbi isn't as off the wall as Thompson, and he pretty much keeps his story on the folks he's covering. His writing style is more contained...the chaos is in the actions of those he reveals, not in how he says it. They're the stars; he's just the fly on the wall.
It's not that the author doesn't have an interesting history. What other political analyst can say he wrote for a Soviet satire magazine and played baseball for the Russian army before freelancing for Rolling Stone? He is known for infiltrating Bush-Cheney HQ and doing some undercover reportage, and for dressing up in gorilla outfit while on the John Kerry campaign. The first made for some very interesting stories, the second reveals that Kerry doesn't just look like a stiff with a stick where the sun can't reach. And okay, those antics may a little Hunter Thompsonish, but the comparison is superficial. Taibbi's antics are secondary. And compared to what the Chosen Few he covers are up to, his silliness is just run of the mill.
Getting back to the book, it's a compilation of campaign stories written for Rolling Stone, published in 2005 and mostly about the candidates looking to get the nod from the Dems. The subtitle is "Dispatches from the Dumb Season" and with good reason. Not one of these folks does us proud.
Taibbi is witty. His writing makes you grin. After the book was published, an interviewer asked him if he enjoyed the absurb. Tabbi said, yeah, it ran in the family. His mtoher campaigned for Dukakis.
There are parts of the book that make you grin, and parts that make you laugh out loud. But after you read it, it makes you worry just a little. He shows us just how empty those suits are, the ones we argue about and campaign for and fight with our friends over. There's just a little anger trembling below the surface, slowly bleeding onto the page. And you have to think: were these guys the best and the brightest that the Democrats could come up with? Was Dubya the Republican shining star? That's the heart of the book. Is that all we've got?
No matter. Laughing about it in retrospect is gonna be one helluva lot of fun.
While last year's presidential race seems distant now, the author reminds us that it wasn't too long ago we were enmeshed in an election that pitted two woefully inept men. Taibbi covered the Democratic primary season and then went undercover to work for Bush and although he slams Kerry mercilessly, he saves his best ammo for the current occupant in the White House.
This book grew on me. For the first forty pages l was convinced that "Spanking the Donkey" was written by a man in his mid-thirties for an audience in their twenties. As the book continued, however, I became aware that Matt Taibbi is an exceptionally good writer. His narrative has rhythm and bite. He maintains humor throughout (which is not an easy thing to do) and he is refreshingly opinionated. For those of us who had the misfortune not to see his essays at their time of print, "Spanking the Donkey" is nonetheless a welcome retrospective to last year's hoopla.
No matter what one's political persuasion is there is something in this book for everyone. (I especially liked his criticism of author Bob Woodward) Taibbi's main contribution is to underscore the fact that as bad as the candidates are and as bad as the journalists are who cover them, the whole idea of campaign issues has been lost to rhetoric. For this alone, but for many other reasons, I highly recommend "Spanking the Donkey". I hope Matt Taibbi has another book in mind.