If politics makes strange bedfellows, this season isn’t likely to see a more unlikely collaboration of co-authors than the Indian novelist and the American actor.
Those who found the “summit meeting” between Sean Penn and El Chapo for Rolling Stone unlikely will find their credulity stretched even farther in this gathering at the Ritz-Carlton in Moscow of the co-authors with notorious—and patriotic, in this book’s perspective—leakers of information Daniel Ellsberg and Edward Snowden. Writes Cusack, who made the arrangements, “the meeting between these two symbols of American conscience was historic. It needed to happen. Seeing Ed and Dan together, trading stories, exchanging notes, was both heartwarming and deeply inspiring, and the conversation with Roy and the two former President’s Men was extraordinary.” Unfortunately, readers will have to take the actor’s word, for the bulk of the transcript is off the record in light of the legal ramifications facing Snowden in exile. Writes Roy (Capitalism: A Ghost Story, 2013, etc.), “the jokes, the humor, and repartee that took place in Room 1001 cannot be reproduced. The Un-Summit cannot be written about in the detail that it deserves. Yet it definitely cannot not be written about. Because it did happen.” Got that? The bulk of this short book features transcripts of conversations between Cusack and Roy leading to the unreportable Un-Summit. He often seems glib: “Radical Islam and US exceptionalism are in bed with each other. They’re like lovers, methinks.” She seems stupefied in the face of American brainwashing: “I don’t live in the United States, but when I’m here I feel like my head is in a grinder—my brains are being scrambled by this language that they’re using….[Elsewhere] people know the score. But here, so many seem to swallow the propaganda so obediently.”
Offered as an antidote to the propaganda, this book will mainly preach to the choir.