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The Exile: Sex, Drugs, and Libel in the New Russia Paperback – 27 Mar 2000

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Product details

  • Paperback: 238 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press / Atlantic Monthly Press (27 Mar. 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802136524
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802136527
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 21.6 x 27.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 403,254 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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the eXile was the perfect name for our newspaper. Read the first page
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 21 Feb. 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Anyone who lived in Moscow during this period will enjoy this book. It brought back memories for me of drunken nights in the Hungry Duck (surely the best club ever!) and Russian girls.
Ames & Taibbi have also covered stories of corruption that the Russian press have been too scared to publish. This book should be essential reading for ALL students of Russia.
A great book written by two great guys
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Edik on 3 Nov. 2011
Format: Paperback
Buy the book and imagine. It really was like they describe. Only better. It was perhaps the only time in our lives we actually felt alive. I met Mark on a few occasions. An interesting guy to say the least. Heck we were young and more than a little bit crazy, but Moscow around that time was even crazier. The Duck, Boar House, Johnny "The Chenster" Chen... all history now.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By jennifer12 on 22 May 2013
Format: Paperback
The book descriptions and supporting blurb are woefully misleading.

You will also note that "95% of the reviews for this "book" here on Amazon (mainly on .com and only 3-4 here on .co.uk) are dated circa year 2000.

In 2013 - this book is hopelessly out of date both in the topics it covers and in its social commentary and expatriate interaction profiles. Even at the time, e.g. 2000, its appeal must have been very limited.

All that this book is, despite claims to the contrary, is just a compilation of articles from "Exile" magazine from the 1990s inter-woven with supporting background about the articles from the authors.

The standard of content is very much what would now be seen as over the top, deliberately provocative, politically incorrect, blogging. Self-indulgent for sure; juvenile; superficial to match. To attach any value to this, other than generating the occasional rye laugh or smile, is an exercise is wishful thinking. Not least as almost all the content is focussed on the personal interactions of the authors with the cast of uninteresting and unamusing, infantile, self-obsessed, dysfunctional sociopath characters that populate the expat community in Russia ( and in fact its not even that as they have a totally Moscow-centric experience) in the 1990s.

Even in 2000 - it would have been the sort of book that you'd give a certain type of person for Xmas. Quick read; then throw away or then give away. Binned.

That this should be being pushed for sale in 2013 is bizarre as well as disgraceful and shameless exploitation.

Count me in as a sucker for buying it.

If it could get "zero" stars, I'd oblige.
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5 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 8 July 2000
Format: Paperback
With Russia being the Wild East and apparently falling apart at the same time as providing businessmen from the West with a new market to foist their wares upon, you would expect Moscow of the 1990s to be the perfect setting for a blistering burlesque against the onward march of 'Globalisation' and the evils of market capitalism.
And so it probably is, but not for Mark Ames and Matt Taibi, joint editors of biweekly Moscow rag 'The eXile'. They instead regale us with a squalid account of their sexual activities with destitute Russian teenagers addicted to every narcotic known to man, interrupting these sojourns with dull and leaden-footed reports on the ex-pat community.
You would think another stumbling block to writing effective satire is not being very funny. But this has not hindered Ames/Taibbi one iota. Example: on the death of Mexican poet Octavio Paz they printed a fake poem next to a picture of Speedy Gonzalez. They admit that this was in bad taste, but bad taste can be funny. I'm not quibbling with bad taste, just that neither the poem nor the picture is very funny.
I think I chuckled once in the course of the book's 238 pages.
Hugely disappointing as this book received very good reviews. If you want an intelligent satire on post-Soviet Russia I recommend Victor Pelevin's work, but unless you wish to be bored with two American Jock's sexual proclivities in Moscow, steer well clear.
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52 of 54 people found the following review helpful
Life in a Northern Town Book Club selection![....] 26 Jan. 2002
By K. M. Sherrod - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As the subtitle might indicate, this is not a book for the faint of heart, nor is it a straight-up history, though the portrait it paints of post-Soviet Russia from the early '90s to 1998 is pretty vivid in all its pornographic, bloody, vomitous, sexist glory, making it a pretty damned good history anyway.
The book is divided into eight chapters, four written by Ames and four by Taibbi. Many readers have complained that Ames' sections of the book are Waholianly dull, too petty, personal, splenous, what have you, while praising Taibbi's sections for their directness, adherence to and expressed admiration for basic journalistic principles and (false, false, false) relative modesty. But I will go on the record as admiring both.
Ames... poor Ames. A lot of his stuff will make readers cringe, but for every one of his self-pitying narratives about scabies or his girlfriend or his dependence on speed whenever left to get an issue of the eXile out by himself, there are still gems of hilarious realism like the following:
"What people forget in every article ever written about drugs is one simple, basic fact. PEOPLE TAKE DRUGS BECAUSE THEY'RE FUN. That's it. There's no mystery to the drug thing. Peiople drink water to quench their thirst, they have sex because it feels good; and they do drugs because they're fun...
Even Hunter S. and William Burroughs couldn't stait it that plainly;: they elevated drugs to the mythical level, keeping mum on the single most obvious, dangerous fact. So I'll repeat: PEOPLE DO DRUGS BECAUSE THEY'RE FUN. It's no different from alcohol or roller coasters except that drugs are A LOT BETTER."
Co-author Taibbi observes later in this book, after a brief reflection on his childhood growing up in the newsrooms of Boston and New York, that "If, as a consumer, you want good newspapers, you're not going to get them if the reporters are people who only reluctantly tell you the truth. Ideally, you have a bunch of people who are outcasts, even sociopaths, who get off on telling people the whole truth because that's the point: The other parts of society - government, business, etc. - have to be able to function while trusting the public to know the worst."
In these two quotes we can find the eXile, and this book, in a nutshell. Ames and Taibbi are two people who get off on telling the truth, and make no bones about the fact that they do get off on it. Hence their infamous "Death Porn" section, their version of a police blotter, in which the goriest crimes they could find in Russia that week are recounted with mocking slapstick horror, in true tabloid fashion, complete with cartoons illustrating basic, recurring story elements, i.e. a little Thanksgiving turkey to indicate the victim was "carved up like a turkey", a piece of Swiss cheese to indicate "riddled with bullets," a hamburger bun with a human haand sticking out of it to indicate cannibalism (quite prevalent out in the provinces where people, still waiting lo these many years for the goverment to pay their back wages, have little to do but hack each other to pieces and eat each other) and, my favorite, a squad cap next to a vodka bottle to indicate an "investigation ongoing."
But Death Porn and little drug and scabies excursi notwithstanding, why should you read this book? Because it also tells the story of a newspaper that has been a huge pain [...] to an expatriate community in Moscow that has done little to actually help convert Russia to a free-market economy or to prepare its citizenry to live in such an economy. Those whom Ames and Taibbi have skewered over the years in their paper have been both highly-placed Russian oligarchs who have taken state corruption to unbelievable new levels (I would refer readers especially to Taibbi's in-depth look at Anatoly Chubais and his loans-for-shares program which should have been a global scandal but was deemed "too complicated" to cover in the western press), and American and British consultants who lived the high life spending foreign aid money on luxuries for themselves, investing it with each other's mutual funds, and creating scandals like the Investor Protection Fund, meant to bail out poor Russians whose first forays into private investing led to their being defrauded (to date the IPF has not paid out one rouble to any bilked investors - but it made one mutual fund manager a lot of money for many years!).
But this book is not to be read as an exercise in schadenfreude: most of the worst villains in the eXile's hall of shame are Americans, and it is a theme throughout the book that once Americans are in any way freed from the usual constraints on their behavior, they are the most corrupt, scaly lizard-beasts one can find anywhere. Even an ordinary suburbanite, once she lands in Russia, winds up threatening gangland hits on the authors [...].
And it could happen here, if we ever cease to keep an eye on each other, on our elected officials,and on our press. For, as Taibbi notes with dismay, the age of those outcast sociopaths is gone; today's "reporters," at least in the western press in Moscow, have become "a bunch of corrupt, cheerleading patsies," largely because there is no longer any competition between papers, magazines, networks, what have you, and thus there's no one paying attention to the accuracy, fairness, or relevance of what is coming out of those Moscow bureaus - and thus no reason for western journalists in Moscow to work very hard at all.
The authors leave open the question of whether this might not be true in other parts of the world or back home, but it does make me wonder about what I'm reading about what's going on in Kabul, in Israel, and in Cheyenne.
I know too many reporters to be able, truthfully, to say that nothing like that can happen or has happened here. I've done it myself, run stories without double-checking facts, accepted sources' words as gospel because of my personal fondness or respect for those sources, left out story elements I didn't think my readers would understand... I just never got called on it.
I fervently wish that there could be more papers like the eXile in the world, while knowing that there can't be: it is only Ames and Taibbi's unique position - out of the reach of American libel laws and unread by the officials whose corruption they expose in Russia because they print in English - that makes the eXile possible.
But in a perfect world, there would be an eXile in every city, Death Porn, pornographic club reviews and all. [...].
39 of 42 people found the following review helpful
a rough gem in muddy flow 15 July 2000
By Kirill Pankratov - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Perhaps one of the reasons (in a sort of cause- and-effect logical warp) that this book should have been written is some excerpts of its reviews on its own back cover: "Brazen, irreverent ... the eXile struggles with the harsh truth of the new century Russia" (CNN), "...welcome to the life on capitalism's new frontier..." (Newsweek). One can't get much blah-blahnder than that - seemingly playing along the book's irreverence and channeling it into safe acceptable notions.
Following any standards is not what authors had in mind. Among their goals - if any - they proclaim "... is protecting Russia from going the way of Prague. From becoming a domesticated, obedient member of the Global Village".
One of the more astute observations in "The Exile" is about Moscow numerous "expats" community, for which the authors readily have inexhaustible amount of scorn and derision. By the early '90-s there wasn't a shortage of Westerners, particularly Americans, plodding Moscow streets. Romantic idealists, careerists wishing to nail a fashionable piece of "emerging markets" on their resumes, fly-by-night sleazebags and crooks, hopeless losers of various sorts trying to make it "on the new frontier" and then running back, tail between the legs, and writing ridiculous "revelations" like "Moscow Madness". One of the most conspicuous crowds were the hordes of Western young MBA consultants and advisers, the likes of what is known as "Andersen androids" and similar telling nicknames. It was a peculiar bunch. They mostly stuffed "...publicly funded businesses and organizations that were guaranteed profits, independent of any competition or accountability of performance, while supposedly furthering the capitalist values of competition and fair play... Looking at their bright, happy faces, you'd never guess that these were the people who'd have the balls to tell millions of Russians that their jobs and benefits needed to be sacrificed for the sake of 'competitiveness'."
The book goes a long way to explain why reports of western correspondents from Russia often feel like stale bottled water taken from the same puddle, chlorinated and carbonated and slapped with a familiar label. In short - because mostly these expat reporters are indeed a closeted inward-looking insipid crowd, less interested in understanding and accepting a new country than in fitting and truncating new reality to familiar forms - and making a career out of it. Ironically, the "official" pedantic expatriate outlet "Moscow Times", hilariously scewered all over this book, came out with not one, but two reviews, both patiently explaining why "The Exile", while so blah-blah irreverent and provocative, is not such a big deal and perhaps should not be taken too seriously.
"The Exile" unashamedly (and exploitively) revels in Moscow bursting sexuality, so missing in US, either from real city streets or from plastic-looking flesh and toothy smiles of innumerable "sexy" TV shows. Of course, the book is far from flawless. Some of author's pranks are sophomoric (but others are excellent), there are factual errors and some of its political insights are laughable. But to nitpick on the book for this is to completely miss its point. More likely the real bummer - they still don't get the word "dinamit`", as when one's party (repeatedly) skips a date - until one gets the point. The word
originates from "dynamics", with at least a hint of a game - chase and rejection, rather than "dynamite" as in "blow up something". What a bunch of dopes.
Despite enjoying this book as no else I've read recently, I won't give it full 5-star clip. That would smack of a kissassination job of the likes the authors so gloriously trashed in their book. But I'll keep reading "eXile" to feed on its visceral, shameless energy and mockery of things safe and proper.
28 of 31 people found the following review helpful
Schmoozing with the Enemy 11 May 2000
By Michael Bass - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
As a former Moscow resident, I was in many a run-in with authors Ames and Taibbi, and not always on friendliest of terms. Indeed, no small amount of the titular libel in "the eXile: Sex, Drugs, and Libel in the New Russia," their tell-all book about the decadent glory days of mid-90s Moscow, is directed toward yours truly and the boys' longstanding feud with myself -- so it seems they're still earning points at my expense! Even if most of what they say about me is exagerated, if not falsehood, I hold no grudges. For in spite of all their showy spleen and venting of frivolous personal vendettas, Ames and Taibbi can't help but write about the Moscow they love with a warmth and glow that is unmatched anywhere. From the get-rich-quick schemes, to the shady deals, to the fast living and fancy cars and, yes, the prostitutes, this book describes it all to a T -- with wit, compassion, and honesty. Of course, if you were there in Moscow in the mid-to-late 1990s you probably don't need to read the book -- you lived the dream. But for all others, this book is as close as you'll probably come to having been there in the flesh. My Moscow gone by... I miss it so.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
A brazen but insightful look at post-Soviet Russia 17 July 2000
By "robertconvey" - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
At times in this book I wanted to go and wash my hands, but then realize I prefered to turn the page and see what happened next. Although couched in an easily readable prose, I didn't care as much about the internal strife and difficulties it took to start and sustain an alternative newspaper, but the glimpse of post-Soviet Russia was something which is hard to find elsewhere.
This book made me take a step back and re-analyze the schlock that "major" newspapers are willing to print. I may not have wanted to be fast friends with Ames or Taibbi, but it's good to know there are yellow journalists out there willing to put their lives on the line to challenge the status quo. This book seemed to encapsulize exactly what the eXile was about -- the humor of those who take themselves too seriously, the outlandishness of excess, and ultimately the truth of what lies behind a carefully sculpted facade of Western media spin.
Kudos to Grove/Atlantic to have the fortitude to publish this controversial work!
19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Free T-Shirt Review 23 April 2000
By Tate Ulsaker - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Brutal, dark, sickening, funny... and usually correct. Ames and Taibbi will take you on a personal tour of better-than-fiction shenanigans, crimes, and follies that typify today's catastrophic Russia. Better writing of Russia's darker side doesn't exist. Although set in ultra decadent Moscow, this book is written for anyone with a gripe against those totally accepted cultural norms we in the West come to question only after leaving the country. Be ready to challenge our great pillar institutions of sex (or sexlessness), drugs (as in "war on"), government aid, and of course feminism. As a bonus, you will be swept into their petty feuds with rivals from all walks of life. Keep a copy in your toilet. Every page is a ker-plunk of one-sided dialogue with counter-culture at it's finest!
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