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This Town: Two Parties and a Funeral-Plus, Plenty of Valet Parking!-in America's Gilded Capital Hardcover – July 16, 2013
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[This Town] is a puckish satire of the Washington political class’s steady retreat into its own gilded navel. Leibovich is a talented writer, and he resists the trap that more insecure, bloviating political writers might fall into: affirmatively spoon-feeding their own political judgments to readers at all turns. Leibovich just documents what he sees, and whom he talks to, wittily mimicking the so-what tone that these glib, dismal samples of humanity use to describe their controversial waking lives. In other words, he lets those who would be hanged hang themselves, by being themselves. —Jim Newell
"This Town is funny, it's interesting, and it is demoralizing ... I loved it as much as you can love something which hurts your heart."—John Oliver, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
“In addition to his reporting talents, Leibovich is a writer of excellent zest. At times his book is laugh-out-loud (as well as weep-out-loud). He is an exuberant writer, even as his reporting leaves one reaching for Xanax…[This Town] is vastly entertaining and deeply troubling.”—Christopher Buckley, The New York Times Book Review
"It's been the summer of This Town. What lingers from This Town is what will linger in Washington well after its current dinosaurs are extinct: the political culture owned by big money."—Frank Rich, New York Magazine
"Many decades from now, a historian looking at where America lost its way could use This Town as a primary source."—Fareed Zakaria
“Here it is, Washington in all its splendid, sordid glory…[Leibovich] seems to wear those special glasses that allow you to x-ray the outside and see what’s really going on. Start to finish, this is a brilliant portrait – pointillist, you might say, or modern realist. So brilliant that once it lands on a front table at Politics & Prose Leibovich will never be able to have lunch in this town again. There are also important insights tucked in among the barbs…So here’s to all the big mouths, big shots, big machers, and big jerks. In case you’re wondering, Mark Leibovich is on to every one of you, and his portrayal of This Town is spot on.” —David Shribman, The New York Times
“In his new book This Town, Mark Leibovich commits an act of treason against the Washington establishment… Thoroughly entertaining… Leibovich is a keen observer and energetic writer.”—Reid Pillifant, New York Observer
“This Town is a frothy Beltway insider tell-all …rollicking fun and sharply written. A big, sprawling fun beach read of a book—snappy and well-crafted.”—Susan Gardner, The Daily Kos
“This Town is as entertaining for the broader picture it paints of a capital that corrupts even the most incorruptible as it is for the salacious gossip that dominated early reviews. Books like Leibovich’s are important resources for historians who, a century from now, will use This Town as a trove of background information for a pivotal period when our politics became poisonous.”—Reid Wilson, The National Journal
“Leibovich delivers the reportorial goods. He is in all the parties, and supplies a wildly entertaining anthrolopogical tour.”—Jonathan Chait, New York Magazine
“Leibovich has written a very funny book about how horrible his industry can be… Uncommonly honest.”—David Weigel, Slate
“[Leibovich] is a master of the political profile… This Town is as insidery as Game Change”—Carlos Lozada, Washington Post
“Intensely anticipated…. [Leibovich] has a real affection for many of his characters… [and] also throws a few unapologetically hard punches.” —Ben Smith, Buzzfeed
“Witty, entertaining….the book is enlightening on how journalism is practiced in Washington…This Town could also be source material for your book about what’s wrong with these horrible people and – more importantly, but also much more difficult – how to fix the culture that led to their ascendance….This Town is a funny book, but it should probably make you as angry and depressed as “Two American Families.” —Alex Pareene, Salon.com
“For the sweaty, twitching, huddled masses of Washington gossip addicts, This Town is rife with such shiny nuggets, the literary equivalent of crack.”— Lloyd Grove, Newsweek/The Daily Beast
“Corrosively funny and subtly subversive…. siren song of money and pseudo-celebrity ….irresistible."—Walter Shapiro, The American Prospect
“Like a modern-day Balzac to US capital power players….hilarious….perceptive.” —Richard McGregor, Financial Times
“A rollicking, if disconcerting, read.”—Denver Post
“Provides a lancing, often hysterically funny portrait of the capital’s vanities and ambitions.” —The New Yorker
“A common trope among conservatives is the “cocktail party scene,” which Republican reformers encounter when they go to Washington and which lures them into selling out their beliefs. This Town provides plenty of evidence not only that those worries are grounded, but that it’s far worse than we imagined….[U]nusual and refreshing…. [A] successful and needed undertaking…. Leibovich enlivens his tedious subjects with a funny and vivid writing style…. he’s also an engaging storyteller. The last quarter of This Town, which dishes on Leibovich’s encounters with the major players from the 2012 election, is undeniably good reading… If you want to understand why you should wake up quivering with white-hot hatred for elite Washington, This Town is well worth your time.” —Matt Purple, The American Spectator
“[A] sharp-eyed, funny and elegantly written takedown of Washington’s crass, insidery, back-scratching (by journalists and politicians alike) culture…. [T]he Tony Soprano of journalists…but with a heart.” —Margaret Carlson, Bloomberg News
“This book has to be the book of the summer, open on the fat or flat bellies of Washington's privileged political elite at Rehoboth, Martha's Vineyard or Nantucket. Even if they are in it, or are looking for themselves in it with dread or delicious anticipation, a Washington version of narcissism, "This Town" is not to be missed.” —Dan Simpson, Pittsburgh Post Gazette
“Not since Truman Capote’s “Answered Prayers” knocked New York society on its heels with its thinly fictionalized revelations of real players who had thought the author was their friend has a book so riled a city’s upper echelons.”—Lois Romano, Politico
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Top Customer Reviews
The remarkable aspect of the book is the author's ability to not take sides, politically: most books on politics end up offending readers from one side or the other but here both sides are equally hoisted on their own petards. Democrats may outnumber Republicans but only because Leibovich is writing about the last several years, with much of the book centered upon the 2012 elections. But, as a New York Times reporter, the author certainly isn't anti-liberal, by any means; he's simply giving an honest account of what he has seen behind the curtains.
That honesty, however, has its limits and this is my main criticism of the book. Leibovich shies away from exposing true corruption and seems to want to be friends with these people. I suppose a political reporter needs friends and allies in Washington and is disinclined to burn too many bridges by exposing the true breadth and depth of the decadence of 'The Club'. However, it's often like a member of the club - which the author certainly is - having had a few drinks too many is giving us a verbal sneak peek of how Washington works behind the scenes, but giving us only a few quick glances behind the curtain before closing it again (lest he risk his membership for exposing too much). But, to his credit, Leibovich does expose the way-too-cozy relationship between politicians and the media people who cover them, which seems to be the reason why Washington never changes: the public rarely gets the whole truth.
Overall, the book is an amusing and insightful view of Washington that most people never see. Full of unflattering anecdotes about top politicians, but more so a view of the culture that breeds such people and the constellation of enablers which surrounds them. If nothing else, it's a very entertaining book.
Still, if you can set aside a so-this-is-how-my-tax-dollars-are-spent mentality, you should find the book witty, gossipy and informative - though not surprising. You must see the politicos and hangers-on as the preening pretenders that most of them are. There are few statesmen and women among this crowd and few genuine leaders - from the voter's point of view. Even when they say they are not making deals, they are. I have heard there's no longer a big social scene in D.C., a la the Reagan years, but apparently there is.
I am put off that the author has commercialized his relationships - no matter how shallow they are - but I am a political junkie so I downloaded the book on my Kindle anyway. It confirms what many of us have observed for years: media are more intent on protecting treasured sources than reporting the truth. Sometimes media ignore nasty stories about their favorite news sources. Whether it's Clinton, Petraeus or someone like Anthony Weiner, media love to tear down public figures (it sells)but celebrate their so-called comebacks (it sells). This book also confirms that those who have gotten caught with hands in the cookie jar or on private parts of a much younger woman, were usually already knee-deep in their misdeeds. Lesson for us: forgiving is fine, but we should probably not reelect these people - and we don't have to admire them either. It's fun to just laugh at them.
You won't know which is sadder: the tone-deaf isolation of all these media kings and queens, political fixers, shameless lobbyists, and assorted hustlers feeding off one another... or the author's failure to muster sadness or outrage. It is no secret that Washington culture is rotten, but what might be revelatory is the thorough lack of interest, on the inside, in doing anything to make government more effective and accountable.
Where the book is meant to be giggly and whimsical it's actually depressing.
Blame for Washington's "broken" state is often placed on "partisan gridlock," but "This Town" shows how little partisanship has to do with it. Democrats and Republicans belly up to the same troughs, are made rich by the same corporate interests, and work easily alongside one another when it's to their advantage. The real divide is between the privileged few thriving within Beltway culture and the rest of the country. The nation's attitude toward these people ought to be curdling into resentment, not relaxing into bemused tolerance at their zany antics. Yet that's where Leibovich asks you to stand.
Given all that's wrong with Washington, then, "This Town" isn't very helpful or constructive.