A posthumous debut novel - wry, wise, and outrageous - from award-winning journalist Michael Hastings, based on his experiences working for Newsweek
The year is 2002. Weekly news magazines dominate the political agenda in New York and Washington. A young journalist named Michael M. Hastings is an intern at The Magazine, wet behind the ears, the only one in the office who has actually read his coworkers' books. He will stop at nothing to turn his internship into a full-time position and has figured out just who 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 has just returned from Chad, where instead of reporting on the genocide, he was told by his editors to focus on mobile-phone outsourcing, as it's more relevant. 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 Magazinewho can advance his career or with his friend in the field who is reporting the truth.
The Last Magazine is the debut novel from Michael Hastings, discovered in his files after his death in June 2013. Based on Hastings' own experiences, it is funny, sharp, and fast-paced, a great book about the news game's final days in the tradition of Evelyn Waugh's Scoop, Hunter S. Thompson's The Rum Diary, and Calvin Trillin's Floater.
One of my big regrets over the last couple years is that I never met Michael Hastings. He wrote some of the "great" long-form journalism pieces for Rolling Stone Magazine during the last decade ('The Runaway General' & 'Bowe Bergdahl: America's Last Prisoner of War'). Hastings' genius was a combination of gonzo passion with the ability to laser-in on stories months or years before they became news.
'The Last Magazine' gives us an energized, barely fictionalized, account of Michael Hastings' time at Newsweek. There is Nishant Patel & Sanders Berman (read Fareed Zakaria & Jon Meacham). There is sex. There is hackery. There's plenty of politics and porn, transvestites & bottom feeders. There are even twin narrators. Two sides of Michael Hastings. There is Michael Hastings the naive intern and A. E. Peoria the jaded combat vet who seems to have an inevitable destiny with self-destruction.
Like most unpublished novels discovered only after their famous authors have died, 'The Last Magazine' is a hot mess. There are parts that are repetitive, segments that go on too long, underdeveloped ideas, etc., but there is also a current and energy that is hard to contain. 'The Last Magazine' is raw and it is FUNNY.
One of my favorite tropes is Michael Hastings' dance on the fourth wall. In the beginning of the novel he details how many words he thinks the novel will be, the book's dangers, its pitfalls, etc. Hastings the author (not the narrator) reappears again and again to apologize for going too slow or too fast or for writing too much. This voice is difficult to pull off, but Hastings manages it with grace and doesn't typically overstay -- Hastings the author and the magician knows how to both make a scene and make a dramatic exit.
17 of 21 people found this review helpful
What did you love best about The Last Magazine?
The humourous responses to the seriousness of a news magazine. In particular the alcohol, drugged antics of the foreign correspondent.
Which character – as performed by Ramiz Monsef – was your favorite?
If you could take any character from The Last Magazine out to dinner, who would it be and why?
Any of the people would be most intersting. The high power people of the press make good dinner dates.
Any additional comments?
The trip to NY in first class is hilareous.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
What made the experience of listening to The Last Magazine the most enjoyable?
The Last Magazine is compelling, hilarious, nasty, revealing and rollicking ride through the last throes of a big time magazine in the runup and first year of the Iraq War.
What did you like best about this story?
Michael Hastings was a gifted reporter for Newsweek and Rolling Stone, before he tragically died in an automobile accident in Los Angeles in 2013.
In my opinion, journalists who attempt to write novels are typically not very good at it. That’s not the case here.
They discovered this manuscript on his computer, and fortunately it has been published, and unfortunately it will be his last published piece of fiction.
The Last Magazine is compelling, hilarious, nasty, revealing and rollicking ride through the last throes of a big time magazine in the runup and first year of the Iraq War. I’m certain The Last Magazine would have been better if he had time to work with an editor, but it’s bursting with life, and you will not want to put down.
Have you listened to any of Ramiz Monsef’s other performances before? How does this one compare?
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
It is, of course, always dangerous to critique work by an author that was never meant to be seen in the form in which it was ultimately published. We don't know if Michael Hastings ever intended for this work to be published at all. The problem that I see in reading this book is that not one single character is sympathetic in any way, except perhaps Chipotle, the man who transformed himself into a woman after his genitals were blows away in an ambush in Iraq. And even he, by this feelings against Cindy Sheehan, loses sympathy. Even the so called writer of the narrative eventually sells himself out and betrays the very people he works for. And it seems that Hastings, in his effort to not make the book overly long, suddenly, in a page or two, tells what ultimately happened to everybody after stopping the narrative with no real ending.
It's quite obvious that Hastings knows how to write graphic sex scenes. But, as others have pointed out, it begins to border on turning the book into a cheap smut novel.
Ramiz Monsef's narration is not a narration. It is a true, extraordinary performance. I constantly got the sensation that I was in a theatre listening to a stage performance. That's how good it was. Without it, I think the book would have decended into being crass and crude.
If you could sum up The Last Magazine in three words, what would they be?
Ramiz Monsef read the story very well and I liked the historical aspect of the story line.
What does Ramiz Monsef bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?
Any additional comments?
Great writing, great story. I learned and was entertained, and never felt like the writing was sub-par.
What did you like best about The Last Magazine? What did you like least?
The media narrative was a lot of fun. It really highlighted just how mediocre so many people are within this business (I speak as a 25+ year news veteran) and how arrogant the legacy media was to the surging threat of online news.
What was most disappointing about Michael Hastings’s story?
The repetition of graphic sex really became a distraction towards the end of the book. Don't get me wrong, I am not a prude but from a narrative point of view it was just too much. OK, we get that one of the central characters has a messed up sex life but I would have much rather Hastings focused more of the story on the media side rather than Peoria's sexual fetishes.
What about Ramiz Monsef’s performance did you like?
10 years of listening to Audible books and no one comes even close to Ramiz Monsef's performance. He is amazing!
Did The Last Magazine inspire you to do anything?
No. I struggled to get through it. I really felt it needed a better editor to slim it down a bit and drive the story forward with a bit more focus.
This was blistering. It's a parody of a news magazine and the personalities involved, and Michael Hastings was, in real life, employed at just such a place. Maybe that was why his characters all popped off the page (or off my iPod), fully drawn. There is a kind of humor or wry observation that reminded me of A Confederacy of Dunces. Knowing that the author died before he had finished this book, I went into it expecting an uneven finish. But for me, the end was a perfect landing.
The narrator is one of those gifted individuals who can make all the characters distinct and memorable through subtle means.