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Hardcover Autumn of the Moguls: My Misadventures with the Titans, Poseurs, and Money Guys Who Mastered and Messed Up Big Media Book

ISBN: 0066621135

ISBN13: 9780066621135

Autumn of the Moguls: My Misadventures with the Titans, Poseurs, and Money Guys Who Mastered and Messed Up Big Media

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Book Overview

Astute, brutally honest, and always provocative chronicler of assorted media-world implosions Michael Wolff has sorted through the wreckage of fallen media empires and fearlessly deconstructed the... This description may be from another edition of this product.

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

The Divided Heart

The dialectic in this book is Wolff's inability to resolve his attraction to the titans who run the media industry with his understanding that these are the same people who have corrupted the business. Wolff is as aware of this tension as anyone. On several occasions he describes this, in his disarming and disconcertingly honest way, as one of his key failings. I have read several reviews which, in fact, seem to regard this ambivalence of Wolff's as a literary failing of the book. But that is, I think, a mixing up of some new Enron-like morality with a deeper literary strategy. Wolff's special contribution here is to explore the predicament of knowing in your head that these are all bad guys--driven exclusively by ego, money, and grandiosity--who have, while making themselves rich, brought nothing but harm to the businesses they have accumulated, while in your heart being drawn to their size, their wealth, their ambition, their determination, their assurance, their mastery, and their charm. I would argue that only by exploring this conflict can we understand just who these moguls are--the Redstones, Eisners, Murdochs, Dillers, et al, who, likely, will rank with the Vanderbilts, and Goulds, and Rockefellers, as the Robber Barons of their age. Along with the psychological and literary insight here--the portraits in Autumn of the Moguls are surely as compelling and nuanced as any character studies in any recent nonfiction--it's important to note the writing itself. Wolff may be the best nonfiction stylist writing today. You have to go back to a different time (the seventies) to find surprising, stylish, personal, lyrical writing like this. This is essay writing in the league of Joan Didion, Tom Wolfe, Michael Herr, and Norman Mailer. What's more, it's hard to describe just how impish, satirical, scabrous, rude, and hilarious this book really is. I agree with an earlier reviewer here that this is a very unlikely business book. On the business shelf, it is miscast. Otherwise it is an extraordinary piece of social commentary.

Incredible writer

I don't know why this is called a business book. It reminds me much more of Norman Mailer. It's a social and personal essay. I know Wolff's work well. His column in New York magazine is one of the best things there or, for that matter, in any other magazine. It's incredible writing. Who else is writing prose like this? Who else is this funny? It's deep, subversive, blasphemous humor. This book, like his column, is theoretically about the media business, but it's really about the sanctimony of American culture. Wolff rips it apart. He says what every person knows, but is too well-mannered, or repressed to say. Wolff is a great writer and this is a great book.

Self-indulgent, but fun with some keen insight

It is an irony, a special irony appreciated only by me, that during the period in the early seventies when Michael Wolff went to work as a copy boy for the New York Times, a headhunter was gently explaining to me that because I had only an undergraduate degree from UCLA and not, e.g., a master's in journalism from Columbia, that I had no chance of being hired by the New York Times, and indeed would not even be interviewed. Instead I went to work for the Asbury Park (N.J.) Press while Wolff went on to become a best-selling writer and a columnist for New York magazine.I mention this personal note since what Autumn of the Moguls is all about is, quite frankly, Michael Wolff. Indeed in the annals of self-indulgent and largely rhetorical tomes about media, Wolff has here something close to a singular achievement, something to rival (in its way) the memoirs of many a Hollywood movie producer. This is a book ostensibly about media wheelers and dealers, the money men who divide and conquer, merge and squeeze while manufacturing low-interest loans and golden parachutes for themselves. Yet Wolff's style is to concentrate on how the moguls have sought him out, how he has been invited to expensive shindigs ("I found myself on the Forbes family yacht" p. 75), while maintaining the acumen to see through their posturings and stupidities. Having established his authority--and to his credit he admits to having lost a buck or two in media deals himself--Wolff then digresses and digresses and then returns to the story, as leisurely as a patriarch at dinner with his heirs. Of course, as necessity has it, Wolff's observations and critiques are strictly after the fact. I suspect that some of the moguls mentioned herein might say that Wolff has raised Monday morning quarterbacking to an ethereal plain.Still there is some fun to be had here and there are some tidbits worth savoring, although sometimes he becomes too enamored of his own coinages, such as when he uses "Zeitgeisty" on consecutive pages 46 and 47, or when he too frequently employs trendy words like "arrivistes." His use of paragraphing and sentence fragments for emphasis is also a bit overdone. More often however, Wolff demonstrates a gift for striking turns of phrase that unfortunately may or may not really mean anything but do indeed catch the ear, like something from Marshall McLuhan without the academic gloss. For example, he writes on page 30, "The media is...in the business of being noticed by the media." Or, "Brand is about access to media." (p. 29) Or, "the larger and higher-profile the company, the bigger the nutcase who runs it." (p. 95) Or, even, "Ubiquity has become the main media standard." [paragraph break] "So this is elemental: The more available content is, the inherently less valuable it is." (p. 278)I'm not sure that these "insights" rank with McLuhan's "The Medium is the Message," which was the then sensational title of the first chapter of Understanding Media (1964); or wi

Splenetic Humor and Sardonic Invective as Analysis

What do you say about a book like this? The style and pose of the book is such that if you praise it you are derided as a fool and if you express dislike it you are vilified as a flack for the vast media conspiracy or at least a naive phoole. Maybe what can be safely said is that if you like your gossip bilious, splenetic, and snarky, well, this is the book for you. It is hard to look away when someone has a powerful figure in his headlights and is driving them down at a high rate of speed. The act is so fascinatingly horrible that we just watch it happen no matter the guilt we feel for even tangentially being a part of such violence.What you will find interesting in this book depends on your threshold of what you count as analysis. My own view is that the book is actually very light on serious insight. When Wolff passes judgment there is never supporting evidence beyond an anecdote or light witticism. There is a lot of stating, after the fact, what "everyone new at the time" when in fact few if any did. To Wolff almost everyone is a fool, a crook, or worse. Even his compliments have to be left-handed and include at least a back handed slap and an anticipatory retraction. He congratulates himself too much for minor accomplishments. He seems to think that saying merely outrageous things that draw sporadic and spasmodic approval he is somehow a serious analyst rather than a blind squirrel gathering an occasional nut.And for someone who postures as one of the true insiders (note how proud he is in being invited to the inner-sanctum of the Foursquare conference) he, finally, comes across as quite provincial. He seems to actually believe that the media industry is the most powerful industry in the world and that we, all of us mere bumpkins, simply bow and scrape and accept every one of its pronouncements, promotions, and products. The standard ploy, regurgitated here, is that the fearsome enemy has all power but is simultaneously a complete and ineffectual fool. I don't know why this ploy works, but it does and is never true. One only needs to note the endless failures of network TV shows, magazines, movies, and books to skewer that kabob. Just as the small time villager projects his values and manner of life on the world, so does the blinkered Mr. Wolff. But that is his job, his gig, his sense of himself. And more power to him, I suppose. Wolff writes with style and if you like that style, acerbic lapels and all, you will like this book. It really is all about style being its substance. There is actually no serious analysis that will do the student of business much good. But nearly everyone likes to read the dirt on the rich, powerful and the formerly rich and powerful. That is what this book provides.I am giving this book four stars because I think it succeeds at what it is trying to be, however, for my personal tastes I would give it two stars.

Belly Laughs

Mr. Wolff has been criticized both for being too close to the moguls he skewers (by people who didn't object to "embeds" in Iraq) and for never really getting close enough. Truth is, he's somewhere in the middle and it's quite terrifying to watch him walk that tightrope strung between lunching with the moguls and verbally punching them the next day. It's also, from a journalistic perspective, a remarkably feat to not get suckered in by these media powermongers and remain skeptical, if not outright cynical, about their competence, their motivations, and their tactics. Anyone who's lusting after scholarly analysis of the media empires that control Western culture, forget about it. This book plays a different role. It kicks the demi Gods of media off their pedestals and displays them to the rest of us as merely human, equally dysfunctional, and rather grotesque. Which is very useful because these tasteless characters are after all the tastemakers of contemporary culture. Read this hilarious book and just give in to the belly laughs.
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