Saturday, May 3, 2008

Gregory Levey's "Shut Up, I’m Talking"

Gregory Levey 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. He is on the faculty of Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book and reported the following:
I open my new memoir, Shut Up, I’m Talking: And Other Diplomacy Lessons I Learned in the Israeli Government, with some trepidation. I’m skeptical of the Page 99 Test.

My book is about my experience as a North American thrown headfirst into Middle East diplomacy. At twenty-five-years-old, I applied for an internship at the Israeli consulate in New York and was instead offered a fulltime job as a speechwriter, first at the UN Mission and later in the Prime Minister’s Office in Israel.

I flip through the book in search of page 99, with no idea what I’ll find there. At first glance, in fact, it’s an odd page. The top is the tail end of one scene and the rest is the beginning of something else entirely.

But after a moment I see that there might be something to the idea. The section that ends at the top has me moving from my first office in the UN Mission to my second. In the scene I’m delighted to note that my new office has a doorknob. In my first office, where I was writing speeches about terrorism for the UN Security Council, I was always annoyed by the fact that my door was missing a doorknob. Things in the Israeli government are often a bit improvisational.

The second half of the page has a passing reference to Ariel Sharon. At this point in the book, he is just a distant presence in Israel, but later on, his staff will offer me a job as his English Speechwriter in Jerusalem – an even more surreal turn of events that plunged me deeper into the bizarre world that is the Middle East.

So maybe it’s all there on page 99, after all. The United Nations and the Israeli Government. New York and Jerusalem. And a bewildered twenty-five-year-old flailing about amidst it all – unsure how he even got there in the first place.
Read an excerpt from Shut Up, I’m Talking, and learn more about the book and its author at Gregory Levey's website and his blog.

--Marshal Zeringue