Review: THE LAST MAGAZINE by Michael Hastings (Blue Rider Press)

9780399169946_LastMagazineThe_JK_r2.inddA dual-personality novel from the late journalist

The year is 2002. Weekly newsmagazines dominate the political agenda in New York and Washington. A young journalist named Michael M. Hastings is a twenty-two-year-old intern at The Magazine, wet behind the ears, the only one in the office who’s actually read his coworker’s books. He will stop at nothing to turn his internship into a full-time position, and he’s figured out just whom to impress: Nishant Patel, the international editor, and Sanders Berman, managing editor, both vying for the job of editor in chief.

While Berman and Nishant try to one-up each other pontificating on cable news, A.E. Peoria — the one reporter seemingly doing any work — is having a career crisis. He’s just returned from Chad, where, instead of the genocide, he was told by his editors to focus on mobile phone outsourcing, which they think is more relevant. And then, suddenly, the United States invades Iraq — and all hell breaks loose. As Hastings loses his naïveté about the journalism game, he must choose where his loyalties lie — with the men at The Magazine who can advance his career or with his friend in the field who is reporting the truth.

Michael Hastings was one of the best young journalists in America before his death last year. Best known, perhaps, for his Rolling Stone piece that got General Stanley McChrystal fired (a media and political furore that was overblown in the extreme, in my opinion). He wrote excellent books (including The Operators, a much-expanded account of his time with McChrystal) and excellent feature articles for multiple publications. He also, as it turned out, wrote The Last Magazine, a fictional account of his time at Newsweek. Published posthumously, it took me a while to get my hands on the book, and I have very mixed feelings about what I found. Continue reading