Bored by law school, Gregory Levey applied for an internship at the Israeli Mission to the United Nations. After a few months and a few reminders about his application, he gave up. Then the phone rang. On the other end was Israeli security, with a battery of questions. Followed by an appointment with the ambassador to the UN, who informed him the mission didn’t offer internships. Did he want a job? Because a speechwriter was leaving soon. And so Gregory Levey soon found himself— at twenty-five — sitting at the UN General Assembly, representing Israel with no instructions on how to vote on an imminent resolution.
Shut Up, I’m Talking is Levey’s memoir of his three years as a speechwriter, first at the UN and then in Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s office in Jerusalem. Improbable as all this sounds, the workings of the offices in which Levey served were even more so. A contributor to Salon.com and frequent commentator on Israel, Levey reports with a keen eye, a deft hand, high humor, and utter astonishment at the workings of the Israeli government. The result is a thoroughly entertaining inside look at the casual and almost haphazard way Israel made its way through the critically difficult period of Yassir Arafat’s death, Sharon’s coma, the ever-present tensions, and Hamas’ rise to power. As Levey says, “Sometimes it is the comic details that best reflect the gravity of the larger picture.”
Maron L. Waxman, retired editorial director, special projects, at the American Museum of Natural History, was also an editorial director at HarperCollins and Book-of-the-Month Club.