Book Review: “Catch and Kill” by Ronan Farrow

It’s perhaps ironic that I chose to read and review a book about Hollywood (“Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies and Conspiracy to Protect Predators” by Ronan Farrow) and the Academy Awards/Oscar nominations were just announced last week (see my Oscar Ballot with where/how to watch the nominees). It’s also probably not ironic considering I’ve had an interest in Hollywood and movie making for a long time so it’s only natural I would gravitate towards this book.

Ronan Farrow’s non-fiction book documents his uncovering of Harvey Weinstein’s (disgraced Hollywood film producer) various sexual harassment and sexual assaults. It was a challenging yet timely read. Challenging because the subject matter is harrowing and depressing (however Farrow’s writing is easy to read and captivating). Yet timely because Ronan Farrow’s reporting that he documents in this non-fiction narrative account won a Pulitzer Prize along with The New York Times‘ reporting on the same story (and both are credited with starting the tidal wave of assault and harassment accounts that started the #MeToo and TimesUp movements).

If the subject matter gives you pause and sounds too heavy, I urge you to give it a read. Farrow is a trusted narrator who has the best interests of the victims at heart.

Ronan Farrow is the son of actress Mia Farrow and writer/director Woody Allen. Farrow is estranged from his father for a variety of reasons. One of the reasons (I imagine) is that Allen allegedly molested Farrow’s sister and Allen’s adopted daughter, Dylan. Perhaps in part because of his sister’s experience, Farrow writes this book and reports on the Weinstein story and subsequent stories about powerful men abusing and/or taking advantage of women with passion, dedication and care.

The book follows Farrow as he’s attempting to uncover various truths related to Weinstein and the film producer’s attempts to block the story from being uncovered and told. And Weinstein went to some lengths to stop this and other similar stories from getting told. He hired a company run by former Israeli operatives (Black Cube) to track down and intimidate the women accusers and reporters writing the story. Weinstein also intimidated NBC into not running the story. Farrow originally started reporting on the Weinstein story when he was a reporter for NBC News. And eventually because the network’s refusal to go with the story (after Farrow struggled with them for months), Farrow ended up publishing the story (and subsequent stories) at The New Yorker.

I liked how Farrow wrote the book so it felt like you were a reporter breaking the story with him. I felt like I was on the set of “All the President’s Men” and I was Dustin Hoffman/Carl Bernstein and Ronan Farrow was Robert Redford/Bob Woodward (movie/real life reference for you). However the fun starts and ends with that parallel because a majority of the book I was gripped with panic and distrust (as was Farrow). While Farrow uncovered a majority of the story while working as a reporter at NBC News (as I mentioned) he ultimately ended up turning to The New Yorker to publish the story. The first part of the book covers his uncovering of the Weinstein story and his attempt to air the story on NBC News. Farrow alleges (with ample evidence and support) that NBC wouldn’t air the story and so he was forced to look elsewhere to publish it. Farrow eventually published the Weinstein story at The New Yorker and continues to be a contributing writer for the publication (and has severed ties with NBC News).

In addition to learning about Weinstein and his decades of abuse and harassment of women, Farrow also writes of other men in power accused of similar offenses. Matt Lauer, Les Moonves and Donald Trump (to name a few). To say that this abuse of power in the name of sexual desire is a widespread problem that affects multiple industries, is putting it lightly. And really the reporting in this book is just the tip of the iceberg (unfortunately) when it comes to that subject matter.

Background Research

Other key stories to read in relation to the reporting uncovered in this book:

Ronan Farrow’s original article on Weinstein from The New Yorker.

The New York Times article about Weinstein by Jodi Kantor and Meghan Twohey that was published 5 days before Farrow’s article. (Shares the Pulitzer Prize with Farrow’s New Yorker piece.)

Kantor and Twohey also wrote a book about their reporting on the Weinstein story called “She Said.” I plan to read it someday but I need to take a bit of a break (I feel silly saying that since victims of assault can’t “take a break” from the pain they’re experiencing).

Other stories by Farrow on similar topics:

A graphic I made with key points I learned from the book.

In summary, I feel that this book is certainly worth a read as are the articles I link to.

Even though my posting schedule has been erratic this month, I plan to get back into the groove of things. This book taught me many things and one of those is that determination pays off. Ronan Farrow, the women who spoke up about abuse and harassment, and the people working on this story in all capacities were and are determined. And although I hate to compare writing a memoir about severe Traumatic Brain Injury and coma (my story and the topic of my memoir) to struggling to get a story about sexual abuse and assault told… I was inspired by them to keep going. To keep writing my story! (I don’t have a new memoir word count update for you this week… unfortunately.)

The Oscars/Academy Awards

It also seems a tad sketchy to talk about Hollywood’s biggest awards show (the Oscars) when I just spent the whole post talking about the corruption in Hollywood. However, I did spend a lot of time compiling my Oscar Ballot & Where/How to Watch the Nominees (View and Download it here). And my parents and I have watched a few more Oscar nominees. Namely “The Irishman” and one of the animated shorts “Kitbull” (my pup Selby loved every minute of Kitbull too). I plan to watch a few more nominated movies before the awards show on February 9th.

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