I thought that Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow would be a book about Harvey Weinstein, and it is, kind of. Although he is a figure of lurking menace that skulks through the margins like a tumor, Weinstein isn’t the central antagonist. Really, Catch and Kill is a book about the complicity of self-preservation.
I have a problem with finishing a lot of non-fiction books. Usually I hit page 200 and stop caring. At that point, many authors have run out of interesting things to say about their premise and seem to be racking up the word count like an undergrad term paper. Even if the author has more that 200 pages worth of information to impart, by that point I have often lost interest. Catch and Kill remains a gripping read for the entirety of its 400+ page count. Rather than get bogged down in the details, Farrow’s jaunty prose and self-effacing first-person narrative style keep the story flowing long after the initial investigation wraps up.
Catch and Kill can be divided into two parts. The first part, and the bulk of the story, is the background of the Weinstein investigation, originally for NBC. The account is harrowing, between the content of the investigation, the tactics used by Weinstein to suppress it (ex-Mossad private investigators), and, most significantly to the book, the actions at NBC Universal to suppress the story and cover their collective asses from Weinstein’s wrath. Not to mention, many of the figures at NBC (Matt Lauer, several producers and executives) have their own sexual harassment skeletons they are desperately trying to hide. Farrow’s pursuit of the story at NBC, and refusal to take “no” for an answer, eventually leads to him being released from his contract. Soooo he takes it over to the New Yorker and wins a Pulitzer prize.
Pictured: Ronan Farrow leaving NBC offices after getting fired.
The Weinstein story has already been told in the New Yorker. The real purpose of this book is a gloriously candid, righteously indignant, and deliciously petty outline of all the ways that specific individuals at NBC screwed Farrow over for the sake of expedience. I loved it.
The second part of the book deals with the fallout of publishing the investigation. This includes Weinstein’s attempts to discredit his accusers, but Farrow also details NBC’s attempts to distance themselves from their journalistic failings and protect the predators in their own newsroom. Farrow names names, and is not afraid to paint unflattering pictures of his former colleagues. The most heartening thing about this part is all the people willing to go on record or leak insider information that details the extent of their organization’s corruption and culpability. Even within Black Cube, the opaque Israeli private investigation firm hired by Weinstein, conscientious individuals leak secret documents to Farrow and deliberately sabotage the firm’s objectives. One of the main themes of Catch and Kill is how ordinary people overlook and excuse bad behavior by powerful individuals in order to protect their livelihoods. However, the existence of the book is itself a testament to the fact that a few brave people- especially the women who first came forward- can still change things for the better, even if it’s an uphill fight the whole way.