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Book excerpt: "Burn Book: A Tech Love Story" by Kara Swisher

Simon & Schuster

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Journalist and podcaster Kara Swisher has penned a memoir, "Burn Book: A Tech Love Story" (Simon & Schuster), about her journey as a reporter chronicling the Silicon Valley shenanigans of arrogant Internet billionaires and their reckless empires.

Read an excerpt below. 

"Burn Book: A Tech Love Story" by Kara Swisher

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I've always hated the phrase "speak truth to power," because it assumes all power is bad. It should really be "speak truth to power when the power is false or damaging— or even just plain bizarre."

In the bizarre camp was when I found myself staring at an ice sculpture of a woman whose breast was oozing White Russians, a Kahlua and cream concoction. I was a guest at the baby shower party for Google founder Sergey Brin and his wife, Anne Wojcicki, who were expecting their first child in 2008. Naturally, they decided to celebrate with a huge party in the factory district of San Francisco. Before you could lift a glass to the icy nipple to get a sip, guests had to brave a jungle of dangling baby photos of Sergey and Anne at the door. The club's entrance was manned by the kind of preternaturally ebullient and hyper-organized women that always seemed to surround the rich of Silicon Valley.

"Would you like a diaper? Or a onesie?" asked a young woman with amazingly swingy blonde hair and a very sincere smile, as if the question were not even slightly f****d up. But we were in San Francisco, after all, where such happenings were apparently popular among its citizens. I try not to judge, even when I am absolutely judging.

To be clear: I was judging hard.

But this was worse than a simple case of sexual preferences. This young woman was asking my baby-wear preference, because that was the "fun" part of the night. Guests either got to wear a diaper with an oversized comical pin, a ruffled baby hat that came with a rattle, or adult-sized footy pajamas accessorized with a teddy bear and a sucker. I declined it all immediately, which made the swingy hair stop swinging and the smile shift to a frown. "Everyone has to wear one," she insisted. "Everyone is wearing one!"

Not me! I ran into the party before she could lay a talcum-powdered hand on me and found some of the most powerful people in tech and media— all decked out as newborns. Brin wore a onesie as he roller-skated around the room. Wendi Deng, then the wife of News Corp titan Rupert Murdoch (whom I had taken to referring to as "Uncle Satan"), had chosen a diaper and sucker combo. Deng quickly asked me how she looked, which was disturbing since she was wearing some kind of leather pants and stiletto boots under the giant Pampers, and that was a freaky disconnect I preferred not to be experiencing at that moment (or, frankly, ever). Thankfully, Uncle Satan was not in attendance, so

I got to miss that particular visual. And, just as thankfully, over in a corner, then Mayor Gavin Newsom, who had grown close to the Google founders, was wearing a normal suit.

Excerpted from "Burn Book: A Tech Love Story" by Kara Swisher. Copyright © 2024 by Kara Swisher. Reprinted by permission of Simon & Schuster, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 

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