Someone at the AP must really like Stephen Colbert. A bait-and-switch June 3 article was supposedly about a new book by Afghanistan-born author Khaled Hosseini, but gave readers stealth fanboy journalism that wrote a play by play of Colbert’s shtick without discussing the book. From the reporting, the BookExpo America breakfast was more like a segment of the “Colbert Report” than a national book fair discussion. Instead of any information about the book, it was line after line of Colbert coverage, "That Stephen Colbert sure is funny, and he sure has some funny ideas about books. Just ask "The Kite Runner" author Khaled Hosseini."
It wasn’t a profile of Colbert’s comedy, and it didn’t have any details about the reason Hosseini was at the BookExpo in the first place—to promote his latest book, “A Thousand Splendid Suns.”
The article ignored the content of the book, which graphically illustrates the brutality of the Taliban, as does "The Kite Runner." The new book spotlights the horrors that girls and women experienced under the Taliban. Writing about the violence and oppression of the Taliban or even the Al Qaeda torture manuals would question the media meme that the War on Terror is largely made up, so instead the AP focused on comedy:
Colbert introduced Hosseini by stating that he had not read "The Kite Runner," a million-selling novel about two Afghani boys and the tragic recent history of their country, and assumed it was a book about a boy who loves kites.
"I loved yo-yos, so I can relate," Colbert said, who then referred to "A Thousand Splendid Suns" by groaning, "Great, another book about global warming."
Hosseini, meanwhile, declined to play the straight man. Before discussing his work, he turned to Colbert and announced that he would like "to address our emcee."
"You trashed `The Kite Runner,'" Hosseini accused his host, alleging such mistreatment on "The Colbert Report," Colbert's Comedy Central satire of television punditry. "It is un-American to diss `The Kite Runner.'"
From the article, it sounded as if Hosseini was not happy with his treatment, but the AP did not explain that point and left the reader wondering if he was playing along:
"I was a little mad at you at the time; I don't remember why," Colbert responded, saying that after making fun of the book his yard was "filled with women's book clubs."
Colbert also plugged his own book, "I Am America (And So Can You)," through a pre-taped infomercial, supposedly filmed in his "underground studio bunker." He trashed Oprah Winfrey’s latest book pick, Cormac McCarthy's apocalyptic "The Road" ("Where are the robots and the large-breasted aliens," he sneered) and praised his own book as a tribute to heroes.
"And who are the heroes?" he asked. "The people who buy my book."
BookExpo America, held at the Jacob Javits Convention Center, ended Sunday.
That last line seemed to be the AP writer remembering what the assignment was and trying to justify the rest of the article. If this had been a piece on Colbert’s humor, it would be fine, but this article looked as if it was supposed to highlight a respected author who was showcasing his new book at an important book fair and instead ended up with poorly disguised tribute to a TV comedian. If it was a highlight of Colbert, then why report from the BookExpo and set it up to appear as if it concerned literature?
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