Wolff’s lasting achievement here is not his headline-grabbing revelations but the skillful, enthralling, and utterly terrifying way he depicts the unqualified, unprepared, and downright unusual characters to be found wandering the halls of the White House in the first half of 2017 as well as their near bloodsport-level conflicts. Spicer was right. You really can’t make this sh– up, though, long before the end, many readers will wish Fire and Fury could be filed under 'Fiction.'
Marrying the slimy and carnivalesque, Fire and Fury occasionally reads like a parody of New Journalism with its elaborate scene-setting; omniscient narrator; some grand, misquoted Shakespeare; and a colorful vocabulary that swings from SAT words (apogee, persiflage) to bro slang (man crush, douchebag) ... Wolff prevents anyone from evaluating his reporting (as well as the motives of those giving him information), forcing us to trust him completely. But why should we be confident in Wolff's unsourced assertions when he makes so many small factual errors with information that is publicly available (even in spite of the fact-checkers he thanks in the acknowledgments)? ... So read it, sure — but as the commercials say, only 'as part of a balanced diet.' Much of the narrative is not substantively different from information found in other reporting on the president. But many other reporters have been restrained and careful where Wolff is shameless. Facts, Wolff appears to think, have done nothing to hurt Trump — so he is fighting spectacle with spectacle.
""The President of the United States is a deranged liar who surrounds himself with sycophants. He is also functionally illiterate and intellectually unsound. He is manifestly unfit for the job. Who knew? Everybody did.
So why has a poorly written book containing this information, padded with much tedious detail, become an overnight sensation, a runaway best-seller, and the topic of every other political column, podcast, and dinner conversation? It seems we are in bigger trouble with reality perception than we might have realized ... tone, more than the substance, is what gives the book the flavor of a peek behind the curtain, the sense of someone finally putting words to an 'open secret' ... If the comedians bring reality into sharper focus, Wolff just slaps on broad, sloppy strokes. His writing is comically bad...His logic is ridiculous ... That Fire and Fury can occupy so much of the public-conversation space degrades our sense of reality further, while creating the illusion of affirming it.""
Wolff’s prose is lively and entertaining — Fire and Fury is at times a riveting read — but the author has something of a mixed reputation as a faithful chronicler of reality ... Some of the juiciest tidbits in Fire and Fury are also among the pettiest, with Wolff listing pejoratives that various associates and staffers have supposedly leveled toward the president (not to his face, of course) ... But more than the insults and trolling — and frankly, what is Trumpier than a bunch of demeaning nicknames? — the most damning thing this book reveals is the extent to which the Trump team, and the president himself, were simply unprepared to govern.
...an altogether fitting, if ultimately unsatisfying, book on the chaotic first nine months of President Trump, another media-obsessed Manhattanite ... what makes Wolff’s account at once undeniably entertaining and lamentably unrewarding is precisely what makes covering this administration so frustrating ... Wolff is unsparing in his portrayal of Trump as an aberrant chief executive, not only detached from governance but barely literate...Yet much of Wolff’s sourcing is opaque ... Wolff is strongest when he’s writing on what he knows best: the insecurities and ambitions of Trump and other media fixtures. Yet while much of this presidency does revolve around news coverage, it is still a presidency. And Wolff is far weaker when it comes to politics ... The writing is often vivid but Wolff, who tries to hold to a chronological narrative, can be as repetitive as Trump, returning again and again to preferred words or phrases (joie de guerre is a favorite). What ultimately salvages the book are those moments when he all but makes Bannon his co-author
It's clear that Wolff has managed a feat even more daunting than turning a nonfiction book into a genuine phenomenon: He has written a chronicle of the Trump administration that, vicious excerpts aside, is a real slog to get through … Throughout Fire and Fury, eyes of storms are always swirling, curtains are coming down, genies pop out of bottles, and the fates of various devils and clown princes hang in the balance … When Wolff does come up with an interesting, Washington-specific observation, such as the Trump administration's growing and particular antipathy to the women who work at the Justice Department, he doesn't delve more deeply into it … In the end, Fire and Fury doesn't have much of a narrative other than the basic march of time.
These critiques are all essentially correct: [Wolff] has been known to make lazy mistakes; he tells stories that prompt eye-rolls because something about them just doesn’t ring true. Yet Fire and Fury is a much worse book than any of these criticisms suggest. Wolff is not merely out of his depth—he frequently seems confused by even basic matters of political ideology—but he also rather starkly displays all the problems with writing palace-intrigue stories about dishonest and unscrupulous people ... Working in Wolff’s favor is the fact that, despite his journalistic shortcomings, his overarching narrative—Trump is an unstable and incompetent president who has no business holding the office he didn’t really want all that much anyway—is disturbingly credible. And to Wolff’s partial credit, he seems to have some awareness of the critique of his type of journalism ... Wolff seems confused as to what precisely he is trying to argue about Bannon’s personality and role in the White House ... Wolff also finds himself on shaky ground whenever he peeks from behind the curtain and starts analyzing politics ... The Trump team probably regrets all the bad press they have gotten from Fire and Fury over the past several days, but they should surely feel sanguine about a media environment that allows Wolff’s method and standards to flourish.
Even though some of the book is absolutely appalling in what it describes as going on among America’s politicians and the president’s family, it reads easily and contains some real laughs ... Mr. Wolff reports some shocking stories of relations among the cast of characters who comprise Mr. Trump’s ostensibly professional and familial spear-carriers ...most incredible and troubling among the anecdotes that Mr. Wolff recounts are those involving the president himself ...causes me to deplore the fact that it would be impossible to recommend this book to younger readers who otherwise could profit from the snapshot of high-level American government it provides ...there is too much 'beef' in the book for it not to be fact-based as well as bile-based.
Fire and Fury does contain plenty of palace intrigue and compromising stories, but its promised revelations are not really revelations at all. The fundamental scandal, the book’s centerpiece truth—that the President is breathtakingly unfit, and his administration is a slow-motion train wreck—has been obvious all along ... And yet while this state of affairs, experienced digitally, 24/7, entails a vertiginous dysphoria, a book like Fire and Fury, precisely because it is a book, circumvents our hypertrophied circuit of stimulus-response, and leaves the reader with a much more sustained, depressing, and horrified outlook ... Bannon is Wolff's most consequential and consistent source, and at times Fire and Fury reads more like a book about him than a book about the President of the United States and his White House ... Wolff’s treatment of Bannon feels at once too much and insufficient, especially when it comes to the question of Bannon’s racism, which Wolff handles with too much deference. But it is also devastating. Wolff is at his best as a journalist when he is documenting the interpersonal dynamics of wealth—and how the gravitational pull of money shapes the expectations and actions of the rich and their hangers-on ... laid out in book-length prose, rather than telegraphed in 140 or 280-character bursts, the impact is like the distancing effect in Brechtian theater: we see what’s always been in front of us, but in a queasy new perspective and dilated temporality.
In one sense, Fire and Fury is a typical piece of 'access journalism,' as it’s known, like many titles by Bob Woodward or, on the more gossipy side, like the Game Change books by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann. Mr. Wolff takes the genre to another level, and perhaps a lower level. If he has employed objective criteria for deciding what to include or exclude, it’s not clear what those criteria are ... maybe Mr. Wolff’s approach isn’t so unconventional. Much of his writing is sheer pronouncement—not the reporting of facts or the weighing of evidence but merely the stringing together of unverifiable assertions. These assertions are sometimes idiosyncratic, more often conventional; but almost always they are conjectural, no more provable or valuable than the crotchets of a barroom political junkie ... If Mr. Wolff had considered it his job to tell us what happened, and not merely to offer up his own clever interpretation of what happened, he might not have felt emboldened to repeat every unseemly tidbit he could extract from murmuring White House staffers. But then he wouldn’t have gotten rich.
Overhanging the entire tale — and every page of Fire And Fury — is the more crucial problem that Wolff is talking to a bunch of pathological dissemblers who have been known to blatantly lie to the media and really cannot be trusted at all ...have a story that could plausibly be true — at least the part about Blair telling Kushner this — but the reader has no way of deciphering whether it actually is, or of evaluating what it could possibly mean ... critiques are all essentially correct: He has been known to make lazy mistakes; he tells stories that prompt eye-rolls because something about them just doesn’t ring true ...starkest sign of a rotten media ecosystem is that a book this flimsy and dubious could dominate the news cycle ...a book in which it is impossible to distinguish fact from fiction — and pointless to even try.
Fire and Fury is not a book for the ages. Nor does it presume to be. Its inelegant cover — a pairing of simple red-white-and-blue letters and an unflattering photo of a snarling Trump — gives an accurate sense of what’s inside: a few hundred pages of gossipy, anecdote-heavy accounts that paint a highly unfavorable portrait of a deeply unpopular president ... Fire and Fury is really not boring. In fact, it’s an enthralling read, an undeniably juicy chronicle of a presidential administration that in just one year has been beset by numerous scandals and crises. Of course, as with any satisfying dish that has you craving more, the book, with all its accounts of petty and profanity-infused backstabbing, can ultimately leave you with the feeling of having consumed one too many of Trump’s beloved cheeseburgers ... Much of Wolff’s book might not come as a surprise, but he’s good at putting the dirty laundry toward a greater purpose and providing concise summations of complicated story lines.
...reads like a cross between The Emperor’s New Clothes and The Twilight Zone ... the text is mostly written in an omnipresent voice, so it’s difficult to determine what you’re reading—material from interviews or second-hand sources or pure speculation—from moment to moment. In other words, a middle-grade nonfiction book typically has clearer sourcing ... in ways both funny and frightening, this account does reveal a distressing level of dysfunction, starting with Wolff’s ability to sit on a couch in the White House for months without someone kicking him out. Fake news or genuine exposé, this will have people talking for a long time—or until the next presidential tweet.
There’s a certain Snopes-comes-to-the-big-city feel to celebrity journalist Wolff’s tawdry portrait of the current occupants of the White House ... No one in the administration seems up to the job he or she is supposed to be doing, and there’s an ugly, startling instance of incompetence on every page. The White House has naturally denied and decried Wolff’s account, but even if it’s only halfway accurate, it presents an appalling view of a frighteningly unqualified and unprepared gang that can’t think straight.