The Anti-Trump Book Club is a new monthly column wherein reviewer Jim Behrle will walk us through literature that’s critical of the Racist-Grandpa-in-Chief. Follow along this month as Jim takes on Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury. —Eds.
There must be a German word fit to describe the experience of reading Fire and Fury, the phenomenal bestseller by reporter Michael Wolff, which quite simply blows the lid off the Trump White House. It must be at least one part “I told you so,” and two parts dread and fear, with a splash of pure joy. Wolff keeps the pages turning with a combination of great storytelling, remarkable behind-the-scenes access to this most unusual administration, and a breathless, breakneck urgency that grips the reader even in its quietest moments. Amid all the juicy, newsworthy tidbits of gossip, there is a clear-headed portrait of the most toxic workplace imaginable, where the daily stakes are, literally, the world.
Steve Bannon is a larger figure in Fire and Fury than even the president. Clearly, Wolff has found himself the perfect quote machine in Bannon, who alternately seems like he’s simultaneously playing everyone else and himself, and yet somehow remains the truest of true believers in the emerging Trumpism. From the unexpected victory on election night 2016, the reader is given a front-row seat to all the ensuing chaos.
Spoiler alert: It’s quite chaotic. Surrounding the president are divided centers of power all desperate to come out ahead and survive a White House that’s all over the road. Wolff seems to get the most out of Bannon—and gives him the most. Throughout, one has to remind oneself that Bannon isn’t the main character. And, indeed, the book suffers upon Bannon’s exile. The book’s pace quickens and the end comes too soon, as if rushed to print. Some administration officials are introduced without fanfare, only to quickly disappear.
This book may not change any reader’s mind about the politics of the moment. Everyone, it seems, has made their own peace with that. But Fire and Fury is back in most bookstores after delays and necessary reprinting—the book allegedly has sold almost 2 million copies since the first week of January. That was certainly helped along by the president’s lawyers threatening to stop the book’s publication. Wolff’s publisher, Henry Holt & Co., simply moved the release date up, and happily ran out of copies. Never tell the American people what they shouldn’t read.
Whether discussing Trump tweeting from bed between cheeseburgers or Melania crying on election night, the book has got enough juice to keep the reader going, and it’s scary enough that they’ll worry about the future of the republic. Fire and Fury is an enjoyable dissection of Trumpworld and a vital warning about the disastrous folly that is the current executive branch. Wolff may have wormed his way into the White House’s good graces, but what he emerges with is a tale well told. And, for many readers, it’s not a moment too soon. For Trump’s detractors, it might be an “I told you so” reading experience. For others, it may be the scariest book they’ve read since The Exorcist.
Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House
by Michael Wolff
(Henry Holt & Co.)