Shut Up, I'm Talking is a smart, hilarious insider take on Israeli politics that reads like the bastard child of Thomas Friedman and David Sedaris. Now a political writer for Salon, Gregory Levey stumbled into a job as speechwriter for the Israeli delegation to the United Nations at age twenty-five and suddenly found himself, like a latter-day Zelig, in the company of foreign ministers, U.S. senators, and heads of state. Much to his surprise, he was soon attending U.N. sessions and drafting official government statements. The situation got stranger still when he was transferred to Jerusalem to write speeches for Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
Shut Up, I'm Talking is a startling account of Levey's journey into the nerve center of Middle Eastern politics at one of the most turbulent times in Israeli history. During his three years in the Israeli government, the Second Intifada continued on in fits and starts, Yasser Arafat died, Hamas came to power, and Ariel Sharon fell into a coma. Levey was repeatedly thrust into highly improbable situations -- from being the sole "Israeli" delegate (even though he's Canadian) at the U.N. General Assembly, with no idea how "his" country wanted to vote; to nearly inciting an international incident with his high school French translation of an Arab diplomat's anti-Israel remarks; to communicating with Israeli intelligence about the suspected perpetrators of suicide bombings; to being offered leftover salami from Ariel Sharon's lunch. As Levey got better acquainted with the personalities in the government's inner sanctum, he witnessed firsthand the improvisational and ridiculously casual nature of the country's behind-the-scenes leadership -- and realized that he wasn't the only one faking his way through politics.
With sharp insight and great appreciation for the absurd, Levey offers the first-ever look inside Israel's politics from the perspective of a complete outsider, ultimately concluding that the Israeli government is no place for a nice Jewish boy.
Gregory Levey is the author of Shut Up, I'm Talking: And Other Diplomacy Lessons I Learned in the Israeli Government and has written for Newsweek, The New Republic, New York Post, Salon, and other publications. He served as a speechwriter and delegate for the Israeli government at the United Nations and as Senior Foreign Communications Coordinator for prime ministers Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert, and is now on the faculty of Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada.
"A funny, sometimes horrifying look at the inner workings of international government agencies.... [Levey] makes speechwriting seem cooler than even Aaron Sorkin imagined.... Read it for the hilarity and the keen portraiture, but try to pretend these people don't actually make decisions about the fate of the world." -- Kirkus Reviews
"This brilliant and blindingly funny book is like a nonfictional season of The West Wing set in the Knesset. If you ever wanted an insider tale about why the Middle East is such a complicated, heartrending, and yet unbelievably compelling saga then look no further. Gregory Levey has captured the soul of this conflict with charm, grace, and diplomatic wit." -- Matthew Polly, author of American Shaolin