Rolling Stone writer Matt Taibbi, torturer of John Kerry, enemy of the Pope, coiner of “vampire squid,” has built a career for himself as the consummate caller of bullshit. “He’s unique in that he doesn’t see anything that is good,” a former editor tells Vanity Fair. “He just notices the flaws in people.” But woe to those who point out his flaws, as writer James Verini, who met with Taibbi found while trying to write a piece about Exile, the English-language magazine Taibbi co-published in Moscow in the nineties.
I mentioned some of the Exile pieces of his I planned to write about, and he said, “That was covered in the book.” I told him yes, that was true, but the book had been published in 2000, and, frankly, I didn’t think it was very good.
“The book wasn’t good?” he said.
“No, I didn’t think so,” I said.
“My book?” he said.
“Yes, the Exile book. I thought it was redundant and discursive and you guys left out a lot of the good stuff you did,” I said.
At this, Taibbi’s mouth turned down and his eyes narrowed.
“Fuck you,” he snarled, and then picked up his mug from the table, threw his coffee at me, and stormed out.
The restaurant was packed with customers, and they all turned to watch as I sat there, stunned, coffee dripping from my face. The waiter arrived with the milkshake Taibbi had ordered. After wiping myself off a bit, I went outside, where Taibbi was putting on his coat, and asked him to calm down and come back into the restaurant. He walked up to me, glaring, beside himself with rage.
“Fuck you!” he yelled. “Did you bring me here to insult me? Who are you? What have you ever written? Fuck you!” I tried to talk to him, but gave up when he walked away. I went back inside, paid the bill, left, and began walking up Sixth Avenue. Halfway up the block, I turned around, and Taibbi was behind me.
“Are you following me?,” I asked. He walked toward me, raising his arms as though preparing to throttle me or take a swing.
“I still haven’t decided what I’m going to do with you!” he said.
“Are you kidding?,” I asked.
It’s always those who dish it out who have the hardest time taking it.
Lost Exile [VF]