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

  • Review
By – March 5, 2012

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.

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