Mark Leibovich’s new book, This Town: Two Parties and a Funeral-Plus, Plenty of Valet Parking!-in America’s Gilded Capital, has caused quite a stir inside the beltway.
As an inside look into Washington’s culture, many politicians, journalists and anyone remotely involved in politics has been nervous and excited to see how — or worse, if — they are portrayed in the book. Many Washington journalists, as well as some outside the Beltway, have taken a look at the book, and we’ve compiled those reviews that stand out, for better or for worse.
The First Look — Buzzfeed’s Andrew Kaczynski was one of the first people to get his hands on the book, picking it up at a Hudson Booksellers bookstore inside the Newark Airport. He published a piece last week revealing one of the juicier details in the book. Which is that Leibo (we’re going to call him this relentlessly until even he’s annoyed by it) reveals the White House’s efforts to defend Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett leading up to a September 2012 profile in the NYT. The administration circulated a memo title “The Magic of Valerie” that included 33 talking points. Kaczynski included excerpts from the book that outlined some of the talking points, including that she is “the perfect combination of smart, savvy and innovative.”
The Best Look — According to WaPo’s Carlos Lozada, who had the first full review of the book, said there are only two things that will keep you flipping to the next page of “This Town.” As Lozada writes, “First, in Leibovich’s hands, this state of affairs is not just depressing, it’s also kind of funny. Second, you want to know whether the author thinks anyone in Washington — anyone at all? — is worthy of redemption.” Lozada in his review said the book is more a collection of characters who are Washington archetypes than a “rich narrative.” He lists examples to prove his point. There’s Andrea Mitchell, “a conflict of interest in human form” as the wife of former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan covering the financial crisis. There’s also Bob Barnett, who has a strong “desire to be considered a Washington wise man.” Overall, Lozada gives one of the most solid, comprehensive reviews of the book.
The Cozy Look — Who better to objectively write a review of the NYT Magazine correspondent’s book than a colleague employed by the same newspaper company? Probably anyone else at any other media outlet. Despite being a review worthy of the “Incest Desk” feature we typically reserve for something involving Howard and Judy Kurtz, it presents some new details about the book. David Shribman writes that Leibovich has “got the sharp knives out.” Shribman also calls the book “a brilliant portrait.” So brilliant, in fact, that he speculates Leibovich “will never be able to have lunch in This Town again” once the book hits Politics and Prose bookshop in upper northwest Washington. After many, many graphs of praise about the book, Shribman writes that it makes Washington look “more and more like a bad joke.”
More “looks” at This Town, including a borrowed look (by Politico)…
The Borrowed Look — As the NYT and WaPo released reviews of the Leibo’s book, Politico summarized with a piece by Mackenzie Weigner who lists “Who’s up, down in ‘This Town.’” Listing politicians, journalists and behind-the-scenes political playmakers, Weigner sums up what Leibovich wrote about each one citing a NYT magazine story by Leibovich that ran an excerpt of the book, the WaPo review, or one reference to an “excerpt [of the book] obtained by Politico.” With heavy use of quoting, the piece essentially rewords pieces in NYT magazine and WaPo. So far, if you’re looking for reviews, you may not want Politico‘s to be among them.
The Look-up — This Town is purposefully published without an index of people whose names appear in its pages. There’s even a label printed on the book jacket that reads “WARNING: This Town does not contain an index. Those players wishing to know how they came out will need to read the book.” To help “players” not actually have to read the book (who reads books these days?), WaPo compiled an index of the 739 names of “people real and fictional, famous and infamous.” It doesn’t get as specific as the page number, just the chapter, so if you’re looking for your name you still have to read at least one chapter.
Many in “this town” took to Twitter to comment in 140 characters or less on the book and reviews of it. Here are some of the best ones we saw:
In response to the “showy cars” mention in the lede of Shribman’s review:
Wait, DC has “showy cars”? http://t.co/2WiEXFp3RP
— The Fix (@TheFix) July 8, 2013
For the record, I own a 2005 Hyundai Accent with no power locks or power windows, David Shribman. http://t.co/ZPcQbGFzXz
— Byron Tau (@ByronTau) July 8, 2013
My showy car, a 2004 Toyota Matrix, is also covered in bird poo all the time. Because THIS TOWN. http://t.co/FLKA16MTro
— jennifer bendery (@jbendery) July 8, 2013
Of course there was some self-promotion.
Rebecca Berg of the Examiner was very worried about Leibovich’s ability to eat lunch.
Let’s all chip in to send @MarkLeibovich some Potbelly, at least.
— Rebecca Berg (@rebeccagberg) July 8, 2013