Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Inside the secret world of Rupert Murdoch
Michael Wolff – Knopf – Hardcover - NZ$55

Right now I don’t know which was to turn, I have books knee deep on the floor of my office, in the lounge, on the dining room table and beside the bed, and these are just the titles I am keen to read, there are many others as well that I’m afraid are not going to make my blog.
The joys of being a book reviewer. If only books were published evenly throughout the year, but of course they are not with about half of them perhaps being published in the September-November golden quarter.

However when this new and fascinating title about Rupert Murdoch was pushed into my hands by the ever-enterprising Random House publicist, Jennifer Balle, with the words “you are going to love this” , then it leap-frogged all those other books and I spent several happy hours today completely distracted, living briefly in the almost unbelievable world of Rupert Murdoch, one of the most brilliant and cynical newsmen of all time.

Wolff, a columnist for Vanity Fair, (one of the great magazines in my book), is among the most influential writers around on the subjects of media, politics and culture, and the guy can really write. Even his five pages of acknowledgements at the beginning of the book are readable and entertaining. This is how he starts:

It’s important to get lucky when you write a book. My first stroke of good fortune happened when my daughter Elizabeth introduced me to her colleague Leela de Kretser, a reporter at The New York Post. My next stroke was that Leela was extremely pregnant and looking for a job with more flexible hours for after her baby’s birth. My next was that before the Post, Leela had been a reporter at the Herald Sun, Murdoch’s paper in Melbourne, where she grew up. An Aussie who’s worked for two Murdoch papers to help with the research for a book about Murdoch – that’s striking gold.

I was immediately arrested.
Here is another excerpt from about half way through the book which gives you an indication of his style:

His moods, or his mood swings are frightening. This is not because, like Maxwell, he can veer easily into grandiosity or petulance, but because his moods occur in a finer range – so that you don’t quite know what his mood is, other than to sense that his attention and humour and purpose have rather shifted. The moods may be subtle, but they’re also intense – the moods of a relatively inexpressive person.
Constant jet lag doesn’t help. This cordial, even courtly man can, at times, suddenly seem dangerous. Out of nowhere he can be cranky, impatient, short. “Old Grumpy,” they called him, only half affectionately, in the office of Star TV, his Asian satellite operation. He’s at his most jet-lagged in Asia.

Wolff was given unprecedented access to Murdoch, his family and his associates so the resulting book is an intimate and revealing look at the life of this man who wields enormous power and influence, who is both a loving father and a love-struck husband, married to a woman 40 years his junior.

Such is the interest in the title that publishers Random House has brought forward its simultaneous international publication to 5 December.
I am fortunate enough to have an advance copy, but I recommend that you order your copy now at your local independent bookseller or public library. It is going to cause a stir and will be of special interest to journalists and others in the media and communications business.

This review from London’s The Independent, headed Murdoch Unmasked, is well worth reading.

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