During the 1980s and ’90s, in its heyday, PJ O’Rourke possessed one of those idiosyncrasies – such as that of Nora Ephron, of Michael Kinsley, or of Calvin Trillin – that enthralled many readers, including this whole work, must be filled with anticipation.
O’Rourke, who died on Tuesday at the age of 74, coming from the far right of the political spectrum, which makes him doubly interesting. He’s the rare conservative who seems to have a better time, and does better medicine than everyone else. He was well read; he seems to be the only jovial Republican alive.
His book – “Holidays in Hell” (1988), “Congress of Whores” (1991) and “Age and Guile Beat Youth, Innocence, and a Bad Haircut” (1995) among them – often collecting his articles. Their authors, these books make it clear, love getting out of the house.
Some of his best writings are on the open road. An early work was memorably titled, “How to Drive Fast on Drugs While Catching Your Wing-Wang and Without Spilling Your Drink.” In 1980, for the Car and Driver program, he drove cross-country in a blood-red Ferrari 308GTS.
This exhilarating passage from that piece, about overtaking a Porsche, is as good a quote about O’Rourke’s high-class style as any:
We arrived in a Porsche 930 Turbo near the Talladega exit. He was going about 90 when we passed him, and he gave us a little run, passed us at about 110, and then we passed him again. He’s playing the game like anyone we’ve met and is hanging right behind our tails at 120. Ah, but then – then we just walk Far from him. Five seconds and he is nothing but a dot in the shape of an overturned boat in the mirror. I suppose he could keep up, but driving one of those Nazi motorized gambling cars should be a task at around 225% of the speed limit. But not for us. I was more shaken here on my electric typewriter than we were to Birmingham that fine morning in that beautiful car on this beautiful tour through this wonderful country from the towers of Manhattan got to the mountains of Topanga Canyon so quickly that we filled out the appointment logs of optometry offices in 30 cities just from people who went to get their eyes checked to see streaks because they tracked them. I go through.
For many years, O’Rourke was Rolling Stone’s head of public relations. He’s a dichotomy, when he’s not camping like Graham Greene in a hotel bar. “Every American embassy has two fixed features: “a giant anti-American protest and a giant US visa ring,” he wrote.
Remembering PJ O’Rourke (1947-2022)
The satirical writer, political commentator and best-selling author passed away on February 15. He was 74 years old.
O’Rourke’s conservatism is not a doctrine. Like HL Mencken, who influenced his writing, his fundamental disgust is for sanctity. To O’Rourke, libertarians are shams who want to “make us take our groceries home with our mouths”.
“By loudly denouncing all bad things – war and famine and rape – libertarians have demonstrated their own great goodness,” he wrote. He added: “It’s a kind of natural aristocracy, and the great thing about this aristocracy is that you don’t have to be brave, smart, strong, or even lucky to join it, you just liberal character.”
However, he voted for Hillary Clinton. “She was completely wrong about everything,” he said, “but she was wrong within the normal parameters.” Regarding Trump, he said, “This man cannot be president. They have this button, you know, in the folder. He will find it. “
He provokes rights in other ways. Accepting asylum seekers, he argued, is consistent with conservative principles: “Aren’t we pro-life?” he asks. “Isn’t it the lives of refugees?”
Frequently, O’Rourke shoots fish into the barrel. His sentences have lost some of their quickness over time. He becomes his own imitator, an occupational hazard for a great personality. A certain Foghorn Leghorn quality creeps in. The smug cigars didn’t help.
Tucker Carlson stole O’Rourke’s amused looks (in a nightshirt, blue shirt) but not his intelligence, composure, or intolerance for frantic barking.
Of his dressing, O’Rourke commented: “The more weird you act, the more casual you should look. It also works in reverse. When I see a kid with three or four rings on his nose, I know he’s completely fine.”
O’Rourke’s death is important not only because he is a living presence, a cranky original. His absence leaves a glass-sized void in what remains of the gathered and surrounded cultural and intellectual wing of conservatism.
Influential people conservative critic Terry Teachoutwriter for The Wall Street Journal, passed away earlier this month. Obituary of Joan Didion reminds us that she published much of her early work in The National Review. A type of glacier that has almost completely melted.
O’Rourke is a charmer, not a saboteur. I would guess that each of his essays has more conversions to conservatism than a lifetime of columns by Charles Krauthammer or Michelle Malkin. Almost anyone can thunder. Almost no one light-footed reliable.
O’Rourke wrote a semi-sarcastic book on etiquette, “Modern Manners,” which came out in 1983. I’ve always found his advice to be absolutely brilliant.
When my wife was worried about our tax debt but I really wanted to go to dinner, I reminded her, as O’Rourke wrote, that “it’s better to spend money like there’s no tomorrow than to spend it tonight.” like no money.”
It’s not a conservative impulse. O’Rourke’s contradictions are what make him such a worthy friend on this page.
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/16/books/pj-orourke-books-essays.html PJ O’Rourke wrote in a high, edgy style in a shrinking tradition