This Town (Liebovich)

This Town:  Two Parties and a Funeral—Plus, Plenty of Valet Parking!—in America's Gilded Capital
Mark Liebovich, 2013
Penguin Group USA
400 pp.
ISBN-13: 978

Tim Russert is dead. But the room was alive.

Big Ticket Washington Funerals can make such great networking opportunities. Power mourners keep stampeding down the red carpets of the Kennedy Center, handing out business cards, touching base. And there is no time to waste in a gold rush, even (or especially) at a solemn tribal event like this.

Washington—This Town—might be loathed from every corner of the nation, yet these are fun and busy days at this nexus of big politics, big money, big media, and big vanity. There are no Democrats and Republicans anymore in the nation’s capital, just millionaires. That is the grubby secret of the place in the twenty-first century. You will always have lunch in This Town again. No matter how many elections you lose, apologies you make, or scandals you endure.

In This Town, Mark Leibovich, chief national correspondent for The New York Times Magazine, presents a blistering, stunning—and often hysterically funny—examination of our ruling class’s incestuous “media industrial complex.” Through his eyes, we discover how the funeral for a beloved newsman becomes the social event of the year.

How political reporters are fetishized for their ability to get their names into the predawn e-mail sent out by the city’s most powerful and puzzled-over journalist. How a disgraced Hill aide can overcome ignominy and maybe emerge with a more potent “brand” than many elected members of Congress.

And how an administration bent on “changing Washington” can be sucked into the ways of This Town with the same ease with which Tea Party insurgents can, once elected, settle into it like a warm bath. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Birth—May 9, 1965
Where—Boston, Massachusetts, USA
Education—University of Michigan
Awards—National Magazine Award
Currently—lives in Washington, D.C.

Mark Leibovich is an American journalist and author. He is the chief national correspondent for the New York Times Magazine, based in Washington, D.C. He is known for his profiles on political and media figures.

Leibovich was previously a national political correspondent in the New York Times' Washington Bureau. He came to the Times in 2006 from the Washington Post, where he spent nine years, first covering the national technology sector for the Post's business section, then serving as the lead political writer for the paper's style section. Leibovich previously worked at the the San Jose Mercury News.

He is also the author of  the 2013 This Town: Two Parties and a Funeral-Plus, Plenty of Valet Parking!-in America's Gilded Capital. Politico published an article describing This Town as a "chronicle" of the "incestuous ecology of insider Washington." Leibovich, according to the story, is nicknamed "Leibo," and the book's original sub-title was "The Way it Works in Suck Up City." Fareed Zakaria as reviewer for Washington Post praises it as "hottest political book of the summer," containing " juicy anecdotes" and a tell-tale core of "corruption and dysfunction."

The book attracted controversy in 2011 when an aide to Representative Darrell Issa was fired for sharing reporters’ e-mails with Leibovich without their knowledge. In addition to his political writing, Leibovich also authored The New Imperialists, a collection of profiles of technology pioneers.

Awards and Recognition
Leibovich has won a number of journalism awards, including a 2011 National Magazine Award for his profile of Politico's Michael Allen and the changing media culture of Washington. The New Republic described Leibovich as “brutally incisive yet not without pathos” in naming him one of Washington’s 25 Most Powerful, Least Famous People. Washingtonian Magazine has called him the "reigning master of the political profile” and the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg nominated Leibovich as Washington’s “most important journalist” for his “ability to make his profile subjects look like rock stars, on the one hand, and to make others look like complete idiots, on the other.” This Town has been featured in the New York Times, Washington Post, Slate, and Daily Beast. (From Wikipedia. Retrieved 9/10/13.)

Book Reviews
Holt, the fictional Colorado town where all of Haruf’s novels are set, longtime resident Dad Lewis is dying of cancer. Happily married (he calls his wife “his luck”), Dad spends his last weeks thinking over his life, particularly an incident that ended badly with a clerk in his store, and his relationship with his estranged son. As his wife and daughter care for him, life goes on: one
Publishers Weekly

Haruf made his name with the heartfelt Plainsong, a best seller and a finalist for the National Book Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Award. The subsequent Eventide, also a best seller, revisited Plainsong's setting, high-plains Holt, CO. Haruf again returns to Holt but with a new cast, among them Dad Lewis, dying of cancer and comforted by his wife and daughter though
Library Journal

A meditation on morality returns the author to the High Plains of Colorado, with diminishing returns for the reader.... With his third novel with a one-word title set in Holt, the narrative succumbs to melodrama and folksy wisdom as it details the death of the owner of the local hardware store, a crusty feller who has seen his own moral rigidity soften over the year epiphanies seem like reheated leftovers
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions
Use our LitLovers Book Club Resources; they can help with discussions for any book:

How to Discuss a Book (helpful discussion tips)
Generic Discussion Questions—Fiction and Nonfiction
Read-Think-Talk (a guided reading chart)

Also, consider using these LitLovers talking points for start a discussion for This Town:

1. Liebovich opens his book by taking us inside the Kennedy Center for the funeral of TV's Meet the Press anchor Tim Russert. What do you think of his coverage of what should be a rather solemn event? Is it inappropriate? Is it too irreverent...or is it spot-on?

2. What were your personal observations after reading the first chapter, especially of the guests? Why do you think that Liebovich began his book with the Russert event?

3. Liebovich says of the news: "It is no longer enough just to follow the unsexy business of governance in the seat of power. No more boring and stodgy in This Town." What are the implications that serious analysis of public policy and governmental action is considered "boring and stodgy"? What is the purpose of "news"? Is the public interested in serious policy discussions? Are the news media merely giving the voters what they want (entertainment)? Or are the media seriously underestimating public intelligence and interest in governance? What do you think?

4. What are the changes over the past 30 years which Liebovich believes have altered broadcast and print news? Is it for the better...or worse?

5. Talk about the often referred to "democratization" of news on the web vs. the control the old media once exercised over the flow of information. Is there more openness...and if so, is that better or worse? Or do you think the reporting of news still a closed system?

5. Liebovich says that almost no one leaves Washington anymore.

Quaint is the notion of a citizen-politician humbly returning to his farm, store, or medical practice back home after his time in public office is complete.

However, given complicated issues those in government must grapple with—legal, financial, technical and scientific—isn't it preferable to have people with years of experience who can master the complexities?

6. What does Liebovich mean by people who "brand" or "monetize" themselves? Who comes to your mind as a Washington "brand"?

7. How is D.C. is rife with conflicts of interest? Talk about Bob Barnett, which Liebovich uses as his prime example. In what way is Barnett "a walking self-interest"? What are the implications for policy if everyone is connected in someway to everyone else?

8. Senator Coburn of Oklahoma talked to Liebovich about partisanship in today's Washington: "the easiest way to remain in office is to embrace rigid partisanship...[which] usually signals a deeper faith in careerism than in conservatism or liberalism." Do you agree...or disagree? Is this the root of what today we consider D.C.'s "gridlock"? Or are politicians right to stand by their principles, especially if those principles represent the values of their voters?

9. What most shocked...or maddened you in reading Liebovich's book? Has reading This Town altered your opinion of the people who run our government or live in the nation's capital? Or has it confirmed what you already suspected?

10. After reading This Town, what do you think is the most serious problem facing those who run our government? More importantly, what do you think can be done about it?

(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online of off, with attribution. Thanks!)

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