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.