After reading Tim’s review of Shut Up, I’m Talking, by Gregory Levey, I couldn’t resist picking up my own copy. I’m a total sucker for any sort of memoir, real or fictional, about somebody who’s somehow found him or herself in too deep.
I wouldn’t really classify this one like that, though; despite the unlikeliness of a third-year Canadian law student getting a job as a speechwriter for Israel’s U.N. delegation (and then advancing from there), Levey never really seems to be over his head. He seems confused, surprised, and downright scared at times, but not because of any insecurity about his skills; rather, the nervous tension that spans his entire experience stems from getting an insider’s look at the Keystone Cops routine that goes on behind the curtain at a powerful organization that one would expect to have its ducks in a row. And that’s what makes this an interesting read.
I can’t claim to have any insights into what it’s like to work for the government (U.S. or foreign), let alone to be in the midst of a political situation as volatile as the one that exists in the Middle East — in fact, as I read this book, I have to confess that I sometimes had to quickly do some research on the side to get myself up to speed on who gets along with whom in the region — but even as someone with no personal experiences to benchmark against, I was fascinated and freaked out by reading about Levey’s experience. If I had had aspirations of working in government or politics, they’d have gone on the shelf faster than this book did when I finished it.
One more note about the book: it’s easy to see how Levey landed a job as a speechwriter. He has a style that is clean and clear and doesn’t get bogged down by any of the fancy literary devices that are often the downfall of otherwise good storytellers. He has a superb command of the language, and his confidence in this ability allows him to tell his story in a straightforward manner, without ever trying to show off with ridiculous stylistic acrobatics that would throw his tale off the tracks. And that’s totally cool with me.