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Smells Like Dead Elephants: Dispatches from a Rotting Empire

4.03 of 5 stars 4.03  ·  rating details  ·  346 ratings  ·  33 reviews
Smells Like Dead Elephants is a brilliant collection from Matt Taibbi, “a political reporter with the gonzo spirit that made Hunter S. Thompson and P. J. O’Rourke so much fun” (The Washington Post).

Bringing together Taibbi’s most incisive and hilarious work from his “Road Work” column in Rolling Stone, Smells Like Dead Elephants shines an unflinching spotlight on the corr
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Paperback, 288 pages
Published October 10th 2007 by Grove Press, Black Cat
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Phil Szyjka
Feb 17, 2008 Phil Szyjka rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Streets
"Elephants" is an critical, often harsh firsthand account of some of the most important political events/stories of the recent past: Abu Ghraib, Abramoff, Katrina, Enron, etc. Hilarious, insightful, and with a voice sorely needed in an era of media conglomeration and corporatism, "Smells like dead elephants" is "a shocking portrait of our government at work, or rarely working." His 4th is collected work of articles compiled form his column in Rolling Stone. Although still reminiscent of H.S. Th ...more
Lyle
May 19, 2008 Lyle added it
My first reaction when I read Matt Taibbi was that
he's a little too similar to H.S. Thompson, right down
to the syntax.

On the other hand, I could think of worse things to be than
similar to H.S. Thompson. You literally cannot do politics better than 'Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail'. But you sure can try, I suppose.

I could probably pay a handsome sum to have Thompson at his prime writing about the Bush years, but since he's dead, I guess Taibbi would be the next best thing.

As it is, I lov
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Adam
Episodes or dispatches from the disasters of Bush’s second term. Taibbi retains interest whether reporting on the corrupt do nothing congress, or where the thin veneer of civilization is wiped away to reveal the uncaring face of reality. For these later parts his trip into post-Katrina New Orleans with Sean Penn is piece of reporting worthy of Heller or Thompson, a piece of apocalyptic comedy equal parts satire and deadly serious, and three surreal days in Abu Ghraib.
Meave
Sep 30, 2008 Meave rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: NO ONE
I'd appreciate this collection of anti-Bush-government-follies essays much more if Matt Taibbi didn't use such disgusting, msogynist language to describe the disgraceful actions of the lawmakers and lobbyists who were running our country into the ground between 2000 and 2006.

Maybe if he hadn't essentially called them all BIG FAT UGLY GREEDY WHORES, or NASTY SLOPPY SLUTBAG SELLOUT CUNTS, I might've been able to focus on Taibbi's on-scene reporting, like when he participated in day-one post-Katrin
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Teri
May 19, 2008 Teri rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone who cares about this country
Originally, I ordered this book because I appreciate Taibbi's insight when he contributes to Bill Maher's Real Time on HBO. This collection of his columns from Rolling Stone did not disappoint. He's a careful thorough journalist who writes with a very entertaining tone; his dry sense of humor offsets the really bad news that his stories convey about some of the most evil-doings in the White House and Congress during the Republican reign. His explanation on Enron, his deliniation of the machinati ...more
Jim
This collection pulls together some of Taibbi's best work from his Rolling Stone "Road Work," column. These all were written during the eight years when Bush occupied the White House.

Taibbi writes with a style and chops that few journalists possess. At times both raw and raucous, Taibbi never takes himself too seriously, and is never not cynical in his outlook. Offering neither solutions, or excuses for American excesses, both culturally, militarily, or politically, his work pulls the scab off,
...more
Jack
There really aren't more eloquent words for it: Matt Taibbi is just extraordinarily good at what he does. This book, coming out between Spanking the Donkey and The Great Derangement, is I think his most leftist. Spanking the Donkey was to a great extent about the absurdity of the '04 election and Great Derangement, my favorite, was full of bipartisan outrage at the corruption of the entire federal governmental process. This one's strictly about flogging the Republicans, and creating airtight arg ...more
Todd N
Collection of mid-2000s Matt Taibbi articles from Rolling Stone, pre-vampire-squid fame.

Except for one article covering the Michael Jackson trial, these articles cover politics during the latter half of the Bush era. There is another article in which Mr. Taibbi accompanies Sean Penn(!) rescuing people in the days after Katrina that is not directly about politics, but the subtext is clear.

A lot of it feels dated, not because of problems with the writing or coverage, but because things actually so
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Melanie Hierholzer
The thing that struck me about this book is the fact that the stories were written in 2005-2006 and here we are, six to seven years later dealing with the same issues and worse. Which only goes to prove, I guess, that the more things change, the more they remain the same.

Most of the politicians come off in a bad light - not a big surprise, but I didn't realize just how underhanded they are. There are exceptions - Representative Bernie Sanders is one who deserves a medal and/or sainthood.

Matt Ta
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Bridget Guildner
This is a well-written and hilarious/terrifying inside view of US politics. Matt Taibbi writes great pointed essays in which, for example, he is as disturbed by spending 3 days in Congress as he is spending 3 days in Abu Ghraib. Now, Taibbi is certainly no Hunter S. Thompson, but his grotesque descriptions of tie-choked, sweat-soaked, jowl-mongering politicias and his searing disdain for the "powers that be" make this book a natural successor to Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72. Highl ...more
Worth
It's so rare that I laugh outloud when I'm reading. It's a frequent experience though when reading Taibbi. I've never read anyone who's more skillful at writing with profanity. Very tired profanity comes to life anew in Taibbi's work. The truth is is that there's so much profanity in our lives today that it's lost its power. Taibbi though raises profanity to the art it deserves to be. As soon as my children prove old enough to start dropping the f-bomb and s-bomb, etc. I look forward, with all s ...more
Ben
Even if it's a reprint of his Bush years Rolling Stone articles, they make for a fantastic read. Only complaint is it's over so quickly!
Todd Martin
As you might be able to tell by the title (Smells Like Dead Elephants) Matt Taibbi has a quick witted writing style and a gift for colorful metaphors. The book consists of a collection of essays from Rolling Stone, largely addressing political topics such as: the governments response to Hurricane Katrina, the Republican congress, and the Jack Abramoff trial.

While entertaining and, at times, insightful, the book is a bit thin on actual reporting and new information.
John
Nov 24, 2007 John rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Those angered by the last seven years
It's a collection of Taibbi's writings for Rolling Stone from the past few years, and if nothing else, it proves how he's singlehandedly made that rag worth reading again (by being the only political writer worth reading). Iraq, post-Katrina/failure-of-the-federal-levees New Orleans, and, most terrifyingly of all, Capitol Hill-all are touched by Taibbi's poison pen and prodigious capacity for bullshit. Must-read.
Eli
In the tradition of Hunter S. Thompson (and that's high praise coming from me), Matt Taibbi fills this tome with his political columns from Rolling Stone. He beautifully examines the aftermath of Katrina (twice), how lobbyists are helping to ruin our democracy, and a wonderfully written column about the downfall of that filthy degenerate Tom Delay. I LOVED this book.
Peacegal
Alternately laugh-out-loud funny and deadly serious, we should be glad to have a political bloodhound like Taibbi. Whether he's exposing rampant environmental corruption by posing as a Big Oil rep who wants to drill in the Grand Canyon, or writing the most heartbreakingly real dispatch from Hurricane Katrina we may ever read, the author is truly a live wire.
Lisa
man oh man oh man... i keep reading Taibbi's stuff because it's so eye-opening, but it is very upsetting.

our government is completely f'ed up.
let taibbi show you how!
this is a collection of essays written during the last of the horrible horrible W Bush years.

it makes me want to vote every single member of congress out.
Matt
Taibbi's weakest book. His outrage over Hurricane Katrina and the subsequent clusterfuck are palpable and real, but some of the reprinted writings have lost the visceral impact they no doubt had when they were more immediate. There is plenty to admire here, but a lot of dull wasted space as well.
Jim
Not as vicious as Spanking The Donkey, but still worth a read if you like articulate rage. Most (if not all) of these essays have appeared in Rolling Stone: highlights include a trip to New Orleans with Sean Penn (don't worry-it's not what you think) and "How To Be A Lobbyist Without Trying."
Seth
Taibbi's articles and essays from 2001 to 2006. It's fun to look back on this era of no hope and crippling depression, before we were presented with the opposite when Obama got elected. Now that we know Obama was basically Lucy, and we progressives were Charlie Brown trying to kick the football... Eh.
Benjy
Nov 19, 2007 Benjy rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2007
Like Hunter Thompson, who he obviously worships, Matt Taibbi is kind of an asshole. He's also a great writer, so as long as you can tolerate the times he occasionally crosses the line from telling-it-like-it-is to just sort of being a dick, it's a good read.
Dennis Blanchette
Discovered taibbi in rolling stone a few years ago and have read everything he's written since. One of my all time favorite writers, especially when writing on politics or the financial scandals.
Eric
I hate to learn, so this is good because it doesn't teach you anything. funny as hell. him & sean penn in New Orleans saving lives post Katrina is quite a tale.
Jake
Aug 08, 2008 Jake rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: fans of Hunter S.
Matt Taibbi is quite possibly the only no-bullshit political writer alive. While he certainly leans to the liberal side, he really just hates them all.
Erica
So far more of the same Matt Taibbi brilliance so far. A little scary though. Particularly the chapter on the 109th Congress.
Alissa
Dear Matt Taibbi,

I want to marry you and have your snarky, Republican-hating babies. Whaddaya say?

Love,
Alissa
James M.
Wonderful book about the decline and fall of the Republican Party. If you want to know why Obama won, read this book.
Erin
This book pissed me off and made me shake my head in disbelief. Can I move to Canada now?
Lysergius
Rolling Stone articles from Matt Taibbi. Good stuff but no way as good as Dr Duke!
Saadiq Wolford
Frequently laugh-out-loud funny expose of American politics.
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“There are times when American politics seems like little more than two groups in a fever to prevent each other from trespassing upon their respective soothing versions of unreality” 9 likes
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