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Shut Up, I'm Talking: And Other Diplomacy Lessons I Learned in the Israeli Government--A Memoir

3.78  ·  Rating Details ·  319 Ratings  ·  63 Reviews
Shut Up, I'm Talking is a smart, hilarious insider take on Israeli politics that reads like the bastard child of Thomas Friedman and David Sedaris. Now a political writer for Salon, Gregory Levey stumbled into a job as speechwriter for the Israeli delegation to the United Nations at age twenty-five and suddenly found himself, like a latter-day Zelig, in the company of fore ...more
ebook, 288 pages
Published April 22nd 2008 by Free Press
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Nov 26, 2010 Laura rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I’m not sure how I feel about this book. It’s laugh out loud/read portions out loud to my husband funny. Lines like “I took the paper from the ambassador and started back to my office, silently praying that the gist of the U.N.’s official’s statement was that he had a fish in his pants” and “I had decided that I needed a break. At the end of the school year I would take some time off, leave New York, and volunteer to serve in the Israeli army. My reasons for this were somewhat complicated, but a ...more
Some of this book is so rolling-on-the-floor-laughing-my-face-off funny it seems impossible not to love it. But the writer is clearly so out of touch with so much of what he was right in the middle of that it is almost equally painful. I love getting to look through this window into how things work at the U.N. and at the Israeli mission, and so forth; but at the same time I have to filter what I am being told through the author's prejudices to try and find a sense of the people and the instituti ...more
Craig Brantley
Jun 28, 2008 Craig Brantley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Levy gives an insiders view of the Israeli government that proves to be as dysfunctional as we perceive our on to be. Its fascinating that someone of Levy’s background could end up inside the Prime Ministers office and have such access when he wasn‘t even a citizen. For him to be there during Sharon’s illness and Olmert’s transition to power adds to the drama and surreal nature of the story. I can’t imagine that the folks in Tel Aviv we very happy with the picture he paints, but in a way it make ...more
Mar 20, 2009 Stacy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hilarious! I want to write like Gregory Levey. I love nonfiction that tells a fantastic story. Greg takes a very roundabout journey from Canadian attending law school in the United States and ends up working for the Israeli governement at the U.N. in the capacity of speech writer. You could not make stuff up this good.
Jan 05, 2009 Lisa rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Well, from the catchy title, you'd think I would have actually learned something about diplomacy from Mr. Levey. Alas, can't say that I did. The author ended up unexpectedly as a speechwriter (in the recent past) for various individuals in the Israeli government. In fact, I'm sure that I probably heard at least a sound byte or two of the speeches that he wrote.

I kept reading this book until the end (it wasn't a difficult read), because I maintained the belief that there had to be a point to this
Oct 02, 2013 Davida rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: jewish, middle-east
Funny and interesting but at the same time, kind of boring and not really as much insight or as funny as I would have liked. I'm a tough customer. Sorry. Or maybe this book's really just not that good! But it should win an award for its title!

And here are two quotes I liked:

Every time Levey takes a taxi to his job in the Prime Minister's Office, the taxi drivers give him advice. Here is some advice that made me laugh:

"Tell the prime minister that I said that if he wants peace, he first has to cr
Todd Mitchell
Sep 09, 2010 Todd Mitchell rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shut Up, I'm Talking was a great read. It was a bit like Office Space meets a a half-updated Catch-22.

It was fun to follow Greg through Hebrew Day School as a child up into American Law School, then to the U.N. and finally through speech writing in Israel. He finds himself doing everything from herding the elderly about office buildings to firearms and spy training. All the while he masterfully points out the humor and absurdity present at each stop.

I agree that the book also adds a bit of sta
Mar 10, 2012 Dan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: signal
I bought this, I think, because of the following story: the author made a Facebook group for fans of the book, and it got a huge number of members, more in fact than the number of books printed. He was very confused until he realized that people joining a group called "shut up I'm talking" probably weren't actually thinking about the book.

Anyway this book is a mostly fluffy and light story about Middle East politics. The author accomplishes this by spending very little time on actual politics; i
Dec 27, 2008 Ryan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A really hilarious look into the working (and personal) life of a person who is working/living in a place that is completely dysfunctional. Anyone who is ever worked in a crazy and outrageous environment, and most people I know have, can easily relate to Gregory Levey's story on his life working for the Israeli government.

The only issue is that the story is a little repetitive. While all the information within the book is humorous, it feels like each new story is just a derivative of a story yo
Oct 19, 2010 Turaaa rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
It starts out good, with funny anecdotes and misunderstandings that derive from cultural differences between Israeli jews and the Canadian jewish author.
But then, the author goes on and on,tediously complaining about his Israeli coworkers behaviour until the end of the book, without realizing (in my opinion) that the problem is not the Israelis, but his own disability to adapt and understand a culture only slightly different then his own.

A better book\film on cultural missunderstandings is "Fear
Dec 01, 2008 Chrisiant rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, middle-east
My aunt had this lying around at Thanksgiving and I picked it up in a happy accident. Levey wiggles his way into working at the Israeli Mission at the UN and then becomes a speechwriter for Ariel Sharon and moves to Israel. Along the way are fascinating anecdotes of the sheer wackiness of working with Israelis (some of the nearly unbelievable), ending up in surprise positions of power you aren't prepared for, and a window into the functioning of the UN and the Israeli government through a young ...more
Apr 12, 2014 Marc rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The prequel to his second book: How to Make Peace in the Middle East in Six Months or Less. I liked this first book the best. A real, blemishes and all, peek into life in the Israeli Embassy in New York, working in the U.N., and finally working in the prime minister's office in Jerusalem. A great introduction to middle east politics,and sadly reveals while peace in the middle east may be harder to attain than even you thought.
Jun 05, 2011 Laura rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This has to be one my top 10 favorite books now. It combines dealing with law school, dealing with Israelis, life in Israel, and the complete absurdity of the UN. (In fact, some of my favorite essays I ever wrote in law school were disparaging the UN for its treatment of Israel and the necessity of the security fence). So many points in his memoir I can seriously say, yes I have experienced that. Great writing style too, this guy is the Jewish Bill Bryson.
Aug 20, 2008 Michael rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There are many aspects of this book that make it enjoyable. It's funny and he tells his stories about his experiences very well. It also rings true, or anyway one can assume he isn't exaggerating for effect much. While primarily a collection of anecdotes about his experiences, it also has a kind of story line that develops that draws the reader in, too. And finally, it's quite up to date. The last events he described were only about a year prior to publication.
Ryan Heward
Shut up is a book that I had fun reading. However I found that it got very repetitive about halfway through. I found that most of Gregory's stories played out the same after a while. Gregory did a great job of writing this book. His stories include just enough detail without dragging them down. This is a book I would not want to pay full price for however if you can get it at a discount I would recommend it because it is a fun and fast read.
Aug 12, 2008 Kate rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rather amusing account of a young man's stint as speech writer for the Israeli delegation to the U.N. and then for the Prime Minister's Office in Israel. He paints a picture of himself as a guy who was just walking along the street one day and suddenly finds himself working for a highly idiosyncratic and frustrating government.
Snail in Danger (Sid) Nicolaides
This was a mildly entertaining book. Readers should note that the author is an atheist, so if the idea of a secular Israel upsets you, you should probably skip this one. (Side note: I don't understand why a joke about Holocaust denial is okay for this book, but the specifics of a sexual joke are not.)
Krisette Spangler
Mar 20, 2009 Krisette Spangler rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
This book is about the experiences the author has while working for the Israeli government at the United Nations and later in Israel. The stories are shocking, funny, and even outrageous at times. It's very well written, but I will warn you there are a few swear words scattered throughout the book. Despite this fact, it is one of the most enjoyable books I've read.
Dec 09, 2010 lisa rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library-books
this was interesting and well-written, especially since i know absolutely nothing about politics in the middle east and i never felt confused. i especially enjoyed the first half, with the stories about working with the UN. the second half, which takes place in israel, got bogged down a bit because of how wretched living and working there seemed to be.
Mar 12, 2011 Yvonne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hilarious, hard-to-believe-but-true account of how a 25 year old Canadian ends up as a speech writer for the Israeli Prime Minister. It makes you reassess any assumptions you may have about how Israeli (perhaps any country's) diplomacy really works. I laughed out loud many times while reading this book, which is so cleverly written and enjoyable to read. A great choice for quick, light reading.
Apr 22, 2008 Michael rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For not being a big new watcher,or politics, or non-fiction, or autobiogrophies...

Well...I loved this book. Absolutely hillarious.

A comediacally disturbing look at the inner workings of the Israeli government from someone who found himself ensconced in said government partially by accident.

A reccommend to everyone.
Aug 21, 2010 Rachel rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoirs
Reading this memoir has caused me to view the Israeli government as a kind of endearingly dysfunctional distant family member. Although the book is entertaining, the writing itself seemed somewhat amateurish and didn't really impress me.
This is a fun, funny read with the occasional serious note about Middle Eastern politics. You won't get a comprehensive view of Israeli politics, but you will be entertained. The tone of the book gets more bleak towards the end as the author becomes more jaded about the state of Israel.
The author, a Jewish Canadian, lands a job as a speechwriter for Israel for the United Nations. Through writing speeches and sitting in on UN meetings, the author shows how hilarious and dysfunctional the whole experience was.
Nov 23, 2008 Lauren rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Lauren by: Becca Wasser
Shelves: history
This is the memoir of a Canadian who ended up working as the English-language speechwriter for Ariel Sharon because he was bored with law school. Humorous, but completely unsurprising to anyone familiar with Israelis and their government.
May 31, 2011 Kate rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shut Up, I'm Talking was one of the funniest books I have read. If you're looking for a very serious book about Isreal, I would not recommend this, but if you like well written memoirs, this would be one to check out.
Sep 05, 2013 Erin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of my favorites. Love his writing, his outlook, his observations, his humor. I recommend it to everyone although feedback from some make me think that perhaps it's only appealing to a certain crowd. Some couldn't find the humor in it.
Even though it's a memoir (and I'm almost exclusively into fiction right now), I loved this book. So interesting to learn about the author's experiences at the UN and working for Ariel Sharon in Israel. I laughed out loud in several spots. Definitely worth the read.
Mar 15, 2017 Martin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really had a blast reading this book! Its really funny. The author sort of lucked into a job writing speeches for Israel's UN Ambassador... and that rolled into a job in Israel itself writing for the Sharon Administration. There is no single event that dominates, rather one is taken behind the scenes to the insanity of international diplomacy seen through a typically Israeli lense. Levey is a good funny writer, and the reader can't help but chuckle at the cracks in the facade. A strong recomme ...more
Dec 07, 2015 Dylan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned, non-fiction
Very funny book about the insane inner workings of Israeli diplomacy in the early-mid 2000s. At one point Levey mentions that he felt as though he was living inside a government satire, and his telling certainly reminded me of The Thick of It and In the Loop. It's not a weighty book - the anecdotes are a little repetitive, and Levey is so careful to present a fair, moderate view of all the political issues he touches on that I think he errs into false balance much of the time. But there's almost ...more
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