Jeff Sharlet

  • politics January 09, 2018

    The Value of Michael Wolff's "Fire and Fury"

    A number of my fellow journalists are saying privately and publicly that Michael Wolff's book is no big deal—“nothing we didn't know already.” This response makes me think of people who see some piece of modern art, a Jackson Pollock or an Ellsworth Kelly, and say, “I could do that.” Yeah, but did you?

    I don't mean to compare Wolff to a great artist, but what he's done is triply valuable. The inside portrait of the Trump White House as workplace-from-hell may be “gossip,” but then, gossip has ever been the bile of the news—and remember, the body needs bile. Then, too, there’s his intimate

  • culture May 17, 2017

    Pew Research

    Every four years, American political journalists, who rarely interest themselves in spiritual matters outside of election cycles, act out their own sort of religious ritual: foretelling “the evangelical vote.” Think back to February 2016, after Donald Trump had won his large victory in the Republican primary in New Hampshire, but before South Carolina had voted.

    Every four years, American political journalists, who rarely interest themselves in spiritual matters outside of election cycles, act out their own sort of religious ritual: foretelling “the evangelical vote.” Think back to February 2016, after Donald Trump had won his large victory in the Republican primary in New Hampshire, but before South Carolina had voted. He was not supposed to win that state, because there are a lot of evangelicals there, and evangelicals, our soothsayers told us, did not like Donald Trump. They did not like him because he was Donald Trump, and we all know that story,

  • politics November 07, 2016

    Thousands of Little Trumps

    I’m tired of Hillary partisans, too—the ones who devote more energy to verbally bludgeoning Clinton’s doubters on the left than to taking on her real enemies on the right. But even if, like me, you are critical of Clinton—of her corporate centrism, cronyism, elitism, and militarism—please consider voting for her anyway. She is probably going to win, but it’s no longer a lock. Trump has a narrow but plausible path: As of this writing, FiveThirtyEight’s election forecast gives him a 33 percent chance of winning. True, FiveThirtyEight foresees a better chance than all but Trump’s zealot legions,

  • Disappearing Act

    Intrigue abounds in Missing Man, New York Times reporter Barry Meier’s account of the bizarre case of Robert Levinson, a sometime CIA contractor stranded in Iran without any official American recognition of his true whereabouts—or any pending hope of a Stateside return. But the convoluted espionage surrounding Levinson is puzzling on another level as well: It exposes the storied workings of global spycraft as run by a largely improvised, and oddly random, ensemble of bit players, striving to project some larger meaning onto what are, at bottom, all-too-mundane transactions. In this saga, figures

  • The Darkness Show

    Disclaimer: I was not shot at. I did not see anybody killed. That’s not what I saw.

    I don't know if other people are admitting this, but at first we made jokes. Other people were laughing, too—I could see them in the café, waving it away—but I don’t suppose we’re to speak of that now, for the dead are sacred, and sacred isn’t funny. Which is another one of terrorism’s many little victories since November 13: We’re all one step further away from funny. Not real wit—there’s always room for that—but dumb, deflecting humor. I can’t even remember what our jokes were, the jokes my friend Tanja and

  • Christian Soldiers

    To think about this strange and often darkly brilliant book, I pulled two other titles off my shelf that I haven’t looked at in a long time. The first was practical, a how-to guide: Frank and Ida Mae Hammond’s 1973 megaseller—“1,000,000+ copies in print!”—Pigs in the Parlor: A Practical Guide to Deliverance. Another word for deliverance is exorcism. This book tells you how to conduct a Protestant one.

    So will Jennifer Percy’s Demon Camp—but questions of method don’t matter so much to Percy. Her project, rather, is to try to inhabit the mind of a deeply troubled Afghanistan veteran who is either

  • First, Do No Harm

    At one point in Five Days at Memorial, Sheri Fink's elaborately researched chronicle of life, death, and the choices in between at a New Orleans hospital immediately following Hurricane Katrina, hospital staffers begin, inevitably, to imagine how the made-for-TV movie of their ordeal would be cast. A nurse named Budo, "dark-haired with a heart-shaped face and thick eyebrows, said she wanted Demi Moore to play her. Her longtime colleague on the night shift, Cheri Landry, short and stout, with hooded eyes, arched brows, and an air of wisdom, would be portrayed by Kathy Bates."

    As things turned

  • Trigger Happy

    The day after the Newtown, I wrote a blog post titled "Dumb Fucking Gun Nuts." It began by noting that I'm a gun owner myself. It's a .22 semiautomatic rifle that an old girlfriend, raised in a gun family, bought me years ago. The rifle's been sitting in a black vinyl zip-up bag I left in my father's attic almost ever since. I don't have any ammunition. But I think guns are fun to shoot. And I thought that gun owners so enthralled by their AR-15s that they couldn't acknowledge that giving up such weapons might be worth it in order to keep them away from people like Adam Lanza were, as I said,

  • The Last Word

    Mortality, a posthumous collection of Christopher Hitchens’s short essays on living with terminal esophageal cancer—“a distinctly bizarre way of ‘living,’” he emphasizes, “lawyers in the morning and doctors in the afternoon”—is an odd little book, neither fully a cancer memoir nor a meditation on the meanings we attribute to the disease. Though indebted to Audre Lorde’s classic The Cancer Journals and Susan Sontag’s Illness as Metaphor (it’s hard to write about the experience of cancer free of the influence of either, regardless of whether one has read them), Hitchens cites neither. The voices

  • By the Mob’s Early Light

    I have on my desk before me a spine-cracked paperback copy of Cynthia Ozick’s collection of stories The Pagan Rabbi. It seems to have shared close quarters at some point with a broken pen, since the edges of its pages are gilded with blue ink. The cover depicts the title story’s eponymous subject, a black hat with a purple shirt and a rose clutched in his hand, his head in profile beneath the tree that has become his lover. That’s what the title story is about: a rabbi who falls in love with a tree. On the back of the book there’s a red discount sticker, “$1.00.” And next to it, beneath