Is Anything in This New York Times Review of That D.C. Book True?

The New York Times supplied a copy of Mark Leibovich's obsessively anticipated study of Washington self-obsession, This Town, to onetime Boston Globe Washington bureau chief David Shribman—who now does something or other in Pennsylvania or maybe Ohio?—and the paper was rewarded with a book review that begins like this:

Of all the irritating things about Washington—the phoniness, the showy cars, the utter inability of a metropolitan area of 6.9 million people to produce a single decent slice of pizza or a passable submarine sandwich with oil and not mayonnaise—none is more infuriating than the local insider habit of referring to the place as “this town”

One thing that's truly infuriating about Washington is the way it produces the laziest and hackiest complaints among the people who've passed through it. It's as if Shribman were trying to see how many falsehoods and cliches he could stuff inside one set of em dashes: the extra million people he somehow added to the metropolitan population of 5.9 million, the mystifying "showy cars" business, the pizza—

Let's just deal with the pizza. You can get delicious pizza in Washington, D.C. Yes, if you walk into a pizza place at random and grab a slice, it will probably be worse than a random slice in New York. New Yorkers are arrogant hicks about this. If grabbing a slice of pizza is the test of municipal greatness, though, everybody should move to Newark or New Haven.

But the actual quality of the pizza doesn't matter. Shribman, in true D.C.-veteran style, is posturing for the benefit of Americans outside the Beltway (or north of the Intercounty Connector). It is a terrible, phony place, Washington D.C., so here are some terrible, phony complaints about it.

Shribman goes on to write, knowingly:

Mr. Leibovich will never be able to have lunch in This Town again, not that there is a respectable nonexpense-account lunch to be had in those precincts.

Not one place! In the whole city! Writes the man in Harrisburg or Cleveland or wherever. Meanwhile Buzzfeed chief Ben Smith, formerly of The Politico, also read the book, and came to a different and rather better-informed conclusion:

Leibovich writes that one of the book’s possible titles was “You’ll Always Have Lunch in This Town Again.” Self-loathing is Washington’s favorite sport, and Leibovich’s next round of subjects are no doubt already lining up to be bought meals.

[Photo via Getty]