Like most people who are paying an average amount of attention to the news, I was aware of journalist Ronan Farrow’s role in uncovering allegations of sexual misconduct against powerful men in American media and business, most notably Harvey Weinstein. I’d heard Farrow interviewed a few places, including on the podcast of his partner Jon Lovett (I’m a big Lovett fan). So I figured I was interested enough to listen to Ronan tell the story behind the story — how he did the investigative reporting and broke the story, and the efforts (disputed by some, of course) of executives in the media to keep him from pursuing the story.
There are really two pieces to this review: one of the book itself, and one of the audiobook, read by the author. The book is an interesting glimpse into the behind-the-scenes work of an investigative journalist, and while some people (especially at NBC, where he used to work) have disputed some of Farrow’s claims, I don’t think anyone should be shocked to learn that powerful people in all fields consistently try to cover up accusations of wrongdoing against other powerful people. There’s a whole system dedicated to making sure that men in power don’t pay for their wrong actions, and this book just gives a glimpse into a few cases of that sadly well-known phenomenon.
Then there’s the audiobook. Ronan Farrow has a relatively pleasant, unremarkable voice and does a fine job of narrating his own story … except when there’s dialogue. And there’s a lot of dialogue, because he recounts or recreates tons of conversations with sources, interviewees, bosses, fellow journalists, even private investigators who were hired to tail him. And for every single person, he “does” a voice. A distinctive voice. Usually with an accent. He does Spanish, Italian, British, Russian, southern US, and many many more accents. He does high-pitched voices for women and stereotypically effiminate voices for gay men, including his own partner. And every single one of the voices, particularly the ones that involve accents are … how to say this? … laughably bad. Just terrible. The terribleness of Ronan Farrow’s accent work and voice acting generally just pulls you right out of this high-tension story of wrongdoing in high places and … makes you burst out laughing. At least it did for me. Which was actually welcome in some cases since the story was so dark and laughing hysterically at the world’s worst British accent was almost a relief. Are some of these accents borderline racist? I mean, probably, though most likely unintentionally, because Farrow is an equal-opportunity bad accenter. He’s famously a child prodigy and one of the best-known journalists working in America today, but let’s just say he did not get his mom’s acting talent, and he should not, under any circumstances, be allowed to narrate his next audiobook.