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Smells Like Dead Elephants: Dispatches from a Rotting Empire

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  555 Ratings  ·  46 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
Paperback, 288 pages
Published October 10th 2007 by Grove Press, Black Cat
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Paquita Maria Sanchez
Aug 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: truthiness
I want to eat this guy's brain and gain its powers. He is the most readable journalist I have come across in just about ever: a simile-slangin' powerhouse of dark humor and artful bullshit-calling who can take something as seemingly straightforward as intelligent design vs. science, or as thorny and tortuous as victim testimony in the Michael Jackson sex abuse trial, and report it a way which scans as smooth as a beach read without coming across as flippant or reductionist. Quite the opposite: T ...more
Jul 28, 2008 rated it did not like it
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
Phil Szyjka
Feb 10, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Geoff Glenister
Aug 06, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Towards the end of the year 2006, this former "Conservative Christian" Bush/Iraq War apologist began to have second thoughts. Iraq was really the big issue that made me rethink - I still thought we did the right thing by going and removing Saddam, but the fact that we were still there just didn't make any sense to me any more. In the lead-up to the 2008 election, I actually began listening to the other side a bit, and kind of liked that Obama guy. When McCain argued that we needed to stay in Ira ...more
May 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
May 11, 2008 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
Jun 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
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.
Todd N
Sep 11, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Sep 22, 2011 rated it really liked it
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,
I have been very remiss in updating my Goodreads list. Since I last posted, I have read somewhere in the neighborhood of 90-100 books, only one of which was a work of fiction.

I'm going to try to go back and list as many as I can think of and attempt to write a short review of each and I will be sure to recommend the ones that I think are required reading for any thinking person.

Taibbi is always worth the time. In addition to his spot on research and reporting, his well-developed sense of irony,
Sep 15, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Melanie Hierholzer
Jan 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Bridget Guildner
Jun 06, 2008 rated it liked it
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
May 30, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
I guess I should have paid more attention to the cover of this book. The reviews state it's gonzo journalism at it's finest, which isn't necessarily my cup of tea.
I don't agree with many of the stories in this book, but that's to be expected. I don't read things just to agree with them. I just find the writing style annoying and flippant.
I began reading the book with every intention of reading it cover to cover but find myself skimming or skipping past articles after the first page.
Todd Martin
Jan 17, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: culture-politics
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.
Oct 07, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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.
Jim McGrath
Nov 24, 2007 rated it liked it
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."
C. Scott
Aug 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Matt Taibbi is one of my favorite living writers. Here one finds a collection of his best work for the Rolling Stone in the mid-2000s. Hurricane Katrina, the Iraq war, and Jack Abramoff ... all the lowlights of the George W. Bush era get the blistering Taibbi treatment. Full of insight and hilariously brutal wordplay, this is Taibbi at his best.
Nov 30, 2010 rated it really liked it
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.
Dick Harding
Jul 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
I just read this book. It was mostly a compilation of stories that Mr Taibbi had done previously or so I assume. Although it is a bit dated now, nonetheless the book was good. I particularly liked the section on New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina. The sections on the congress are just disheartening. I admire this author for bringing these things to light.
Feb 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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.
Oct 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
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.
Jun 23, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction, politics
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.
Jan 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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.
Fritz Schneider
Aug 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
This collection of essays from the Bush years catalogs with great precision the ways our democracy is falling apart. The last essay, The Worst Congress Ever, should be required reading for the American public.
Janet Zehr
Oct 11, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mind boggling indictment of the Bush years

Matt Taibbi has written a series of essays for Rolling Stone that perfectly show the ultimate corruption and stupidity of government and society in 2006. Be prepared to be totally blown away.
Oct 05, 2007 rated it really liked it
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.
Nov 10, 2015 rated it liked it
Collection of interesting though dated essays on a range of subjects varying from quite interesting (Hurricane Katrina reporting) to tedious (Michael Jackson). The author's tone and writing style are enjoyable, which makes putting up with his frequently objectionable political views an easier task.
James M.
Aug 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful book about the decline and fall of the Republican Party. If you want to know why Obama won, read this book.
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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” 11 likes
“Any country that enjoys fighting and bitching as a recreation as much as America does will always be, in some way or another, walking along a knife’s edge. We’re a nation that spends its afternoons watching white trash throw chairs at each other on Jerry Springer, its drive time listening to the partisan rantings of this or that hysterical political demagogue, and its late-night hours composing feverish blog entries full of anonymous screeds and denunciations. All of this shit is harmless enough so long as the power comes on every morning, fresh milk makes it to the shelves, there’s a dial tone, and your front yard isn’t underwater. But it becomes a problem when the magic grid goes down and suddenly there’s no more machinery between you and whomever you happen to get off on hating.” 1 likes
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