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The CEO of the Sofa

The CEO of the Sofa

4.0 1
by P. J. O'Rourke

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New York Times best-selling author P. J. O'Rourke lobbed one-liners on the battlefields of the Gulf War, traded quips with communist rebels in the jungles of the Philippines, and went undercover at the Dome of the Rock Mosque as P.J. of Arabia. Now, in his most challenging adventure, he journeys to the heart of that truly harrowing place -- his living room. The CEO of


New York Times best-selling author P. J. O'Rourke lobbed one-liners on the battlefields of the Gulf War, traded quips with communist rebels in the jungles of the Philippines, and went undercover at the Dome of the Rock Mosque as P.J. of Arabia. Now, in his most challenging adventure, he journeys to the heart of that truly harrowing place -- his living room. The CEO of the Sofa follows America's preeminent political humorist through a year on the domestic front as he covers stories (and visits watering holes) close to home. He waxes cynical over the election of Hillary Clinton. He waxes nostalgic over learning to drive. He waxes poetic as he adds happy endings for liberals to famous tragedies. Now if he would just wax the kitchen floor. And P.J. does still get off the couch and embark on exotic adventures -- to the magical land of India, to the U.N. Millennial Summit, to a blind (drunk) wine tasting with Christopher Buckley, and, most exotical of all, to a Motel 6 where he has twenty-eight channels and a bathroom to himself. In The CEO of the Sofa, P.J. tackles everything and the kitchen sink, fighting evil, injustice, and absurdity with the gloves off and the oven mitts on. "An entertaining and engaging read." -- Dick Lispey, Associated Press "O'Rourke swings cheerfully into action ... nothing has softened [his] wicked sense of fun." -- Allen D. Boyer, The New York Times Book Review "His fans will love it. Democrats will grit their teeth and laugh to ease the pain." -- Chicago Sun-Times

Editorial Reviews

The Barnes & Noble Review
In his bestselling Eat the Rich, smart-mouthed Republican commentator P. J. O'Rourke gave a slap in the face to the American economy. In Parliament of Whores, he took a long, hard look at our government, wagging his finger at its inadequacies. Now fans and foes alike can find out what it's like to live with a self-proclaimed "political nut," in his latest, The CEO of the Sofa.

Readers inclined to the political left, beware. With a sharp supporting cast of characters featuring his assistant, Max; his teenage godson, Nick; his wife, two kids, and their teenage babysitter, O'Rourke is at the top of his game, rambling and ranting on every topic from the United Nations to childcare, from Social Security to India -- all the while attempting not to offend his Democrat neighbors, especially "when they own a snow blower that I'm going to need to borrow." From the living room to the bedroom, the garage to the kitchen, O'Rourke explains why managers should refer to baby books in dealing with everyone from the regional sales director to the president of the United States (" 'You control him,' says Your One-Year-Old, 'by controlling the surroundings and by just not having too many things around that will get him into difficulty...' Interns for one."); and spreads the truth about how Social Security works ("There is no money in the Social Security trust fund, and there never was. Money is a government IOU. Government can't create a trust fund by saving its own IOUs anymore than I could create a trust fund by writing 'I get a chunk of cash when I turn 21' on a piece of paper").

With hallmark acidity, O'Rourke spares no rancor for Hillary Clinton, whom he calls a "she-ape from New York State," analyzing the arguments for why she may or may not be a dunce (Argument Contra Stupidity: "Partner in most prestigious law firm in Arkansas" / Argument Pro: "Examine phrase 'Most prestigious law firm in Arkansas' "); and tearing into her book, It Takes a Village ("Nearly everything about It Takes a Village is objectionable, from the title -- an ancient African proverb which seems to have its origins in the ancient African kingdom of Hallmarkcardia -- to the acknowledgements page where Mrs. Clinton fails to acknowledge that some poor journalism professor named Barbara Feinman did most of the work").

In a section divided into months from September 2000 to August 2001, readers are treated to a look at the humble home life of a political nut -- with glimpses of wine tasting with Chris Buckley, driving lessons with his godson, and his assistant Max's itemized update on current celebrities ("Just Between Max and PJ: [Will] Smith is talented, has a sense of humor, and you would, in fact, even like his music. Do not let this get out or it will ruin his career"). But while The CEO of the Sofa will give even the liberal a belly laugh at times, O'Rourke is not for the faint of heart, advising his readers, "It's important to remember that Democrats aren't just crazy, they're evil." In other words, if you can't take the heat, stay out of P. J. O'Rourke's kitchen. (Elise Vogel)

Publishers Weekly
Not content to rest on his laurels, the bestselling humorist O'Rourke (All the Trouble in the World, etc.) instead settles back on his caustic couch to offer a wide-angled worldview from his own living room, his salon of sarcasm. He introduces readers to his assistant, friends, family and smart-aleck babysitter, as he reflects on such topics as cell phones ("People are willing to interrupt anything, including hiding under the bed, to answer a cell phone"), Christmas catalogues, Instant Messaging, MP3s, Nasdaq, toddlers, TV and how the "Gettysburg Address" would have turned out if written on an iMac. On a serious note, he praises the "philosophical legerdemain" of Hunter Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. He also reviews the "profound cogitations" of Hillary Clinton's 1995 It Takes a Village ("Some kinds of stupidity cannot be faked"), compares Vegas's Venetian resort to the real Venice ("Will video poker ever inspire a novella by Thomas Mann?") and contemplates the results of bias-free language ("What a piece of work is person!"). For "senior-management types," one hilarious chapter explains youth culture and current celebs, including Moby, Eminem, Carson Daly, Hilary Swank and Beck: "Beck dropped out of school after junior high so we can't blame the dot-com mess on him personally." Though his vitriolic wit is couched in humor that elicits the gamut from giggles to guffaws, O'Rourke never cushions its impact. The comedic crescendo is his centerpiece, a summary of mankind's achievements at millennium's end. This insightful (yet also funny) essay alone is worth the price of admission. (Sept.) Forecast: The 150,000 first printing is backed up with an appealing cover photo, a $150,000promotional budget, a national ad campaign, an 18-city author tour plus online promotion. O'Rourke will undoubtedly find himself on the bestseller list again. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
In The CEO of the Sofa, O'Rourke shows that while he may be having trouble remembering the story of his life, he certainly hasn't lost one iota of his wit. He uses this book to point out, with heaps of sarcasm, the horrors of the cell phone, the UN, MP3 files, and childbirth. When his alterego, the political nut, takes over, you know which way the chad will fall as he discusses the absurdities of recent political history. O'Rourke has a gift for taking a mundane assignment and turning it into the funniest story you've ever heard and he does this nonstop. His tale on traveling through India is worth the price of the program. And who else would think of doing an essay on blind-drunk wine tasting? The author's humor works on both sides of the political aisle, and to make it even better, Dick Hill's performance is perfect. Highly recommended for all libraries we can all use a laugh these days. Theresa Connors, Arkansas Tech Univ., Russellville Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
O'Rourke (Eat the Rich, 1998, etc.), sharpest of the right-wing comic writers-not a populous gang, to be sure-this time stays at home to deliver his caustic, frequently malevolent commentary. The stock characters who help the this domestic Republican Dagwood launch miscellaneous brickbats at "dupes," "bakeheads," "nooky-moochers," "hair farmers," "bird-brains," and a "hay-breath" include a clever spouse, assistant Max, a couple of offspring, and a teenage neighbor. There are a dozen chapters with monthly headings, though there's little relation to monthly events, in which O'Rourke unloads on disparate topics. Of course, there's the UN, Social Security, and Third Way Economics (with help from the Cato Institute). There's much ad hominem about the Clintons. (He alludes to the distaff Clinton as "that she-ape from New York State.") There are digressions regarding drugs, booze, art, and business management as well as connubial and parental matters. For no special reason, there is also a long, patently recycled piece about India. Venice as presented in Las Vegas is preferred to the Italian original. He proposes a campaign for a politically correct cause ("Slogan: ‘Alzheimer's-Fergedaboutdit!' ") and waxes kind of enthusiastic about cigars (though a beat behind the craze). Throughout, O'Rourke is as self-assured as any New York mayor, grandly dissing any ideology insufficiently libertarian. Sometimes it's quite funny and sometimes, like the wine-tasting parody, it has no nose, no legs-it's simply jejune. One natural target for any other professional political japester, George W. Bush, is never approached-but no surprise there. By the final entry, for August 2001, the rant is no more thanbile. Conservatively speaking, O'Rourke's current patchwork is not up to his previous entries. But as Dave Barry's goofy, evil twin, he's still funnier than Pat Buchanan or Arianna Huffington. First printing of 150,000; $150,000 ad/promo; author tour

Product Details

Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
Publication date:
O'Rourke, P. J.
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
File size:
3 MB

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One


I was just going to say, when I was interrupted....

    "Nobody interrupted you," said my wife. "People have tried, but—"

    That was a literary reference, dear, the first line from The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table by Oliver Wendell Holmes, author of "The Wonderful 'One-Hoss Shay,'" "The Chambered Nautilus," and—

   "Other poems used mainly to torture high school students," said my young assistant, Max.

    It's a shame the way the classics are treated in our schools, I continued. Holmes was a brilliant aphorist. Americans don't read anymore. Somebody sent me some quotes from The Autocrat. Where's that letter?

    "Right next to you," said my wife, "under the remote."

    Listen to this: He must be a poor creature who does not often repeat himself. Imagine the author of the excellent piece of advice, "Know thyself," never alluding to that sentiment again.

    "Hmmm," said my wife.

    And this: All uttered thought is of the nature of an excretion. A man instinctively tries to get rid of his thought in conversation or in print so soon as it has matured.

    "Good point," said my wife, flipping through some manuscript pages of mine.

    "I printed out the rough draft of your article on the UN 2000 MillenniumSummit," said Max, "and I'm almost done with the fact-checking. I just have to go to the UN web site and—"

    I stopped him. Max, Oliver Wendell Holmes declares: All generous minds have a horror of what are commonly called "facts." Who does not know fellows that always have an ill-conditioned fact or two which they lead after them into decent company like so many bull-dogs.

    "You're welcome," said Max.

    And, Max, here is Holmes on the subject of computers—a hundred and fifty years ago. He hears about Babbage's mechanical calculating device and foresees the whole pathetic computer age: What a satire is that machine on the mere mathematician! A Frankenstein-monster, a thing without brains and without heart, too stupid to make a blunder; which turns out results like a corn-sheller, and never grows any wiser or better. Holmes calls it the triumph of the ciphering hand-organ.

    "Max," said my wife, "I thought you were going to teach P.J. how to use the laptop."

    "I've tried."

    Holmes was a man of towering intellect, of wide and deep scholarship—essayist, poet, professor, physician—

    "And major babe magnet for Transcendentalist chicks, I'll bet," said Max, "at least compared to Thoreau."

    He gave the Atlantic Monthly its name.

    "What," asked Max, "were they going to call it? The Cape Cod Nude Beach Express?"

    Holmes anticipated the germ theory of disease. He fathered the great jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. He demolished the Puritan doctrine of predestination.

    "And thought he was fated to do it," said my wife, the Catholic.

    Anyhow, as I was just going to say.... What was I going to say, dear?

    "You were probably going to say, 'Where'd that remote go?'"

Speaking of electronic devices [or electric devices, and I'm not sure I precisely know the difference, although I intend to have Max find out because I'm writing an article for the online magazine freeSpam about how the computer is the triumph of the ciphering hand-organ], the other day our daughter, Muffin, announced, "I want a cell phone."

    "You're three," said my wife.

    "But I love them."

    "Ask your father."

    I love them too, Muffin. Daddy loves cell phones because Daddy doesn't have a cell phone. Daddy doesn't have a cell phone because Daddy can't see the tiny numbers on the buttons without his reading glasses. And Daddy doesn't have his reading glasses because he left them on the shelf under the Grand Central Station pay phone, which Daddy was using to call you because Daddy doesn't have a cell phone.

    And that is what Daddy loves about cell phones—not having one. It makes your father unreachable. Being unreachable is a potent status symbol in the world today. Every dateless pimple nose with a dot.com has a Lexus, a business jet, a weekend house in Phuket, and a cell phone. But, Muffin, you just try getting the Queen of England on the blower. Or try finding the direct-dial number for the president of the United States—unless you're a rich campaign fund-raiser or a fat girl in saucy underwear. And those are two things that I trust you, Muffin, will never be.

    [Although, by this time, Muffin had in fact wandered off to watch the Sugared Cereal Channel on TV. And so, come to notice it, had everyone else.]

But as far-too-accessible Bill Clinton has proven, out-of-touch is the important thing to be. Not that anyone would be able to get in touch with me anyway. If I had a cell phone, I'd lose it. I lose everything. I left my first wife in the back of a cab somewhere. And what a great way to be important this is. I'm a big deal because my Zippo slips between the couch cushions, and I once forgot being married. That is so much easier than making a fortune or inheriting a crown.

    I also love cell phones because cell phones punish the most discourteous people in the world—phone users—by giving phone users the punishment they deserve—phone calls.

    Why does the cell phone always ring while you're having sex? This would be okay if the ringer were set on vibrate and the cell phone were properly located. But it isn't. The cell phone is in the pocket of your pants, which are hanging over the back of a chair next to the bed with your friend's wife in it, that you are hiding under because your friend has just returned, unexpectedly, from a business trip.

    "Excuse me?" said my wife from the next room.

    Just a joke, I shouted from the sofa. But why does a ringing cell phone take precedence over every other activity in life? People are willing to interrupt anything, including hiding under the bed, to answer a cell phone. During papal audiences, John Paul II probably hears, "Scuzi, Papa, mia pizza deliverio."

    Although, in fairness, the situation was as bad or worse before cell phones were invented. Muffin does not remember the pre-wireless era when people had to carry their large desk-model telephones around with them on the street, trailing miles and miles of cord. The result was an alarming tangle. It was this, rather than mismanagement of the economy or Jimmy Carter's incompetence, that caused the well-known malaise of the late 1970s.

    And what about Call Waiting? How rude is that? Why not have F— Waiting? That way you could leap up, right in the middle of being discovered by your angry cuckolded friend, and say, "Sorry, my other f— is on the living room couch."

    Why do we need cell phones? Why do we want phone calls? Think about the phone calls we get. How often do we get the following calls?

    "You've won the lottery!"

    "It's a girl!"

    "Uncle Ned just died and left us a golf resort in Florida!"

    No, the cell phone rings and it's "Honey"—you can tell by her voice she's still furious about your friend's wife—"on the way home would you pick up the dry cleaning and a gallon of milk, a package of frozen peas, new linoleum for the kitchen, and an in-ground pool?"

    What do we need cell phones for? Certainly not to say anything. Especially not in America. Americans are so inarticulate that 411 had to be supplied with a recording—"What city? What listing?"—because the phone company couldn't train operators to say anything but "Huh?" and "Whassup?"

    And all those people on their cell phones, to whom are they talking? Men are famously unable to communicate. Women are always on the other line. Parents don't talk to kids these days. Kids say "Huh?" and "Whassup?" You can't call people at work anymore because nobody comes in to the office, and if you try their cell phone you get "no service."

    Yet everyone everywhere is always on a cell phone. The best kind come with an earpiece and a microphone built into the wire so that cell phone users don't even look like they're using a cell phone; they look like crazy people raving on street corners. This, of course, is hard on the crazy people who really are raving on street corners and who—instead of receiving sympathy and 25 cents—are assumed to be calling their brokers. Anyway, whomever it is that cell phone users are raving at, it keeps them from raving at me. So 1 love cell phones.

    In fact, I love cell phones so much that I'm getting one. I'm getting a top-of-the-line highly miniaturized cell phone with all the exotic features. I'm buying new reading glasses. I'm programming my cell phone to continuously auto-dial the headquarters of both of the current presidential campaigns. Then I'm going back to New York to hang my cell phone under the tail of a Central Park carriage horse.

"It's for you," said my wife. "Your godson has been elected to the Model UN. He's going to represent all the high school students from his region."

    Since when did Darien become a nation? Hello, Nick. Congratulations! And, boy, are you in luck! You know, I've just come back from covering the UN Millennium Summit for Instant Access Quarterly. I've got everything you need. Max, would you get my UN piece and all my notes? They're in the file cabinet. Bring the whole drawer. Got a second, Nick?

You should have seen this. I wish I'd taken you with me. You wouldn't have believed it, Nick. One hundred heads of state, forty-seven heads of government, three crown princes, and assorted other eminencies such as Yasir Arafat. It was the largest gathering of world leaders in the history of mankind—and no one cared.

    Actually, Nick, everyone cared—about the traffic. New York local TV news led, the first night, with stories on the gridlock caused by 1,300 UN dignitary vehicles, including twelve cars just for the president of Georgia. And not even Newt Gingrich Georgia but the somewhat less populous sliver of mountain chaos squeezed between Azerbaijan and the Black Sea. ABC World News Tonight began with a Peter Jennings quip about Manhattan traffic jams. The next morning the front-page New York Times article noted, in its lead, "Traffic was backed up across the East Side yesterday because of a crush of limousines carrying VIPs everywhere from the United Nations Plaza Hotel to the Bronx Zoo." The latter being the big non-traffic story in the New York press. Denis Sassou-Nguesso, president of the Congo Republic, visited the Congo Gorilla Forest exhibit to see gorillas that come from the Congo where he's president. A global convergence, we-are-one-world moment? Or gridlock on Planet of the Apes?

    The next morning, a TV news show reported that Bangladesh had a thirteen-car motorcade. This was modest compared to President Clinton's, which, a traffic cop told me, consisted of forty-five vehicles. "And the last two times they were in town," said the cop, "they had accidents." But Bangladesh is a country where 29 percent of the population lives on less than a dollar a day. Figuring the thirteen motorcade cars and drivers at $50 an hour, twelve hours a day, for the four days of the summit, the Bangladesh delegation just took the bread out of the mouths of 31,000 people. Not that I'm accusing the delegation of living large. I saw the entire collection of Bangladeshi Lincoln Town Cars lined up at a Wendy's on Second Avenue.

    The indifference with which the Millennium Summit was greeted by everyone except commuters says a lot about present-day global politics. Not to mention what it says about present-day global politicians—this was no confab of Churchills, Roosevelts, Hiders, Tojos, and Stalins. And what a relief. An excess of international leadership usually results in bullets and breadlines.

    Maybe the world—Bangladesh to the contrary—has become rich enough to be bored by global politics. This is good. Politics cause more grief than money. Take the Vietnam War, for instance. How much would the U.S. government have had to pay 47,000 Americans, putting the job out for bid under strict free-market conditions, to go die in Vietnam?

    Not that money can't be used to do harm. Ted Turner says he's giving a billion dollars to the UN. Turner's overfunded UN Foundation helped sponsor a convocation of more than a thousand religious and spiritual leaders at the UN the week before the Millennium Summit. Thank God—as it were—I didn't have to cover that. The purpose of this "Millennium World Peace Summit" was, according to the mystical gathering's communications director, "to see how religious leaders can bring the power of their own spiritual traditions to work with UN forces ... to help reduce conflict." For fear of conflict with the communist Chinese, however, the Dalai Lama wasn't invited. The communist Chinese being atheists, I'd say religious and spiritual leaders are 0 for 1 so far.

    But, Nick, I don't want to give you the impression that I don't like the United Nations. I do. I think it's extremely cool, especially the whole black-helicopter New World Order secret-global-government thing. I love it. It'll be like DC Comics' Justice League International, except the Security Council members will have superpowers such as the ability to sit through six-hour meetings without going to the bathroom, the ability to figure out what "Document 5: Text of draft optional protocol submitted by the Chairperson (E/CN.6/1997/WH/L.1)" means, the ability to simultaneously translate the click language of the Kalahari bushmen into Farsi, and the ability to fly (business class). And to judge by the crowds in Manhattan's pricier restaurants during the Millennium Summit, UN superheroes will also have supper powers. I can hardly wait. I figure a world government run by the UN will be like getting an old, purblind, half-deaf substitute teacher—or like being baby-sat by your fifty-two-year-old godfather when I'm drinking. Have you seen The Art of War? Wesley Snipes is a member of a United Nations covert action unit, and he's completely out of control.

    "Uncle Peej," said my godson, who seemed to be in a hurry, "could you, like, get Max to e-mail this stuff to me?"

Dear Nick,

    I was just going to say, when I was interrupted....

    Because The Art of War had a lot of good chase scenes and explosions, it was with a certain measure of enthusiasm that I went, last week, to the United Nations Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit Media Division/Department of Public Information to get my 2000 UN Millennium Summit press credentials. Except I couldn't find the Division/ Department. Though with a name as long as that, you'd think just the size of the sign would give it away. The UN was cordoned off by thousands, maybe tens of thousands, of uniformed officers, security guards, and plainclothesmen, every one of whom was almost, but not quite, too busy and annoyed to point me in the wrong direction. I mistakenly got into the line for the Uganda mission—a long line. Why were people lined up to get into the Uganda mission? To get Uganda immigration visas? Were their own countries so screwed up that they wanted to move to Uganda? Actually, probably, yes.

    In due time I found the proper line. It was a much shorter line. In fact, it wasn't a very long line at all, notwithstanding which I stood in it for an hour and fifteen minutes. The Division/Department was bare and stuffy. The only decorations were photocopied flyers Scotch-taped to the wall, bearing such enticing messages as:

The Presidents of Finland and Namibia,
the two co-chairs of the Summit,
will meet each other for the first time
at 6:20 P.M.
today, 5 September,
in the neck area outside the
Delegates' Lounge

    Well, who knows, maybe sparks would fly. (The Delegates' Lounge has a "neck area"?)

    The credentials were prepared, waiting for us journalists to collect them. But our names seemed to have been filed according to shoe size, or phase of the moon when application was submitted, or by using the ancient Cretan Linear A alphabet, the key to which has been lost in the mists of time.

    UN functionaries were arrayed behind wobbly folding tables. Whenever a journalist approached and asked for credentials, the functionaries would express mild shock and dismay. Such a request came as a complete surprise to them. The functionaries would consult among themselves, agree at last to search for the appropriate document, then plunge into an enormous heap of manila folders and stay there for the rest of the afternoon.

    Maybe this is why we don't see so many of those black helicopters. The pilots are probably stuck down at the United Nations Secret Weapon and Unmarked Aircraft Registration and Licensing Division/ Department of World Domination while somebody looks for the helicopter keys.

    Or maybe the pilots got arrested in some foul-up among the various competing security agencies on hand. There was at least one pack of big-buddies-with-sunglasses for every foreign poobah, plus Secret Service, State Department Security, UN Security, FBI, ATF, NYPD—the works. Forget politicos, this was the largest gathering of guys with radio earpieces sticking out of their jacket collars in the history of mankind. And all of the security people were listening to voices through those earpieces, making them twitch and look around and mutter to themselves. It was like arriving in the midst of a gigantic convention of unusually well-dressed schizophrenics. If these fellows got together and made any treaties and agreements among themselves, we're all in trouble.

    It's a shame the police types were too busy to do anything about actual criminals, such as about one-fourth of the world leaders on hand. The political opponents of Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe have a knack for conveniently dying, and Mugabe uses the thugs in his political party to terrorize landowners. China's Jiang Zemin is brutal with Falun Gong religious dissidents and murderous in Tibet. Omar Hassan Ahmad Al-Bashir, president of Sudan, leads a genocidal war against Christian and animist tribes in his country. Mohammad Khatami's Iran sponsors worldwide terrorism. Islam A. Karimov is a vicious dictator in Uzbekistan. God knows what Vladimir Putin has been up to in Russia, but it's nothing nice, say the Chechens. Castro is an old butcher from way back. And, in the matter of mopery, sexual misdemeanors, and lurking with criminal intent, there was our own Bill Clinton.

    At least the loathsome North Koreans didn't make it. The number-two Pyongyang commie, Kim Yong Nam, and his fourteen wiseguy delegates stopped by—of all the unlikely crime-fighting forces—rude airline personnel. American Airlines wouldn't let the North Koreans onto the Frankfurt-New York flight without pat-downs and luggage inspections. I can just hear the snippy people at the check-in counter: "I'm sorry, but your weapons-grade plutonium must fit in the overhead compartment or under the seat in front of you." By the time Kim Yong Nam et al. got done throwing tantrums, they'd missed their flight. And happy fiftieth anniversary of the beginning of the Korean War to you, too, assholes.

Fortunately I was walking to UN headquarters instead of flying and only had to contend with all the law enforcement agencies on earth and not American Airlines. Thus I was able to saunter into the General Assembly building simply by flashing my credentials. These consisted of one piece of laminated plastic containing blurry print and a picture, allegedly of me, which looked like it was clipped from the middle of a five-dollar bill.

    I was just in time to see the fifty-fifth session of the UN brought to order by the newly elected president of the General Assembly, a former prime minister of Finland, Harri Holkeri, who seems like a perfectly nice man despite his Japanese suicide of a name and who can almost speak English. After some opening blandishments, President Holkeri presented the General Assembly with its first piece of serious business under his regime, a plan "to start the General Assembly meetings on time." A fitting proposal, inasmuch as this particular General Assembly meeting was starting twenty minutes late with most of its delegates absent from their seats.

    Next order of business was the admission of Tuvalu as a member of the United Nations. Two-of-what? You may well ask. Tuvalu is a former British colony consisting of nine coral atolls halfway between Hawaii and Australia with a land area one-tenth the size of Washington, D.C., and a population of 10,297. My college had fraternity houses larger than that. What's next? Sigma Chi becomes a NATO power? Tuvalu has no crops, no industry, and no known mineral resources. It has no drinking water except what's collected in rain barrels. The economy is based—seriously—on selling Tuvalu stamps to collectors.

    The charter of the United Nations states in Article 2, paragraph 1, "The Organization is based on the principle of sovereign equality of all its Members." And no doubt a very good principle this is. But Tuvalu? "If there are no objections ..." said President Holkeri. And no one in the General Assembly did object or, as far as I could tell, notice.

Having exhausted my interest in the doings of the General Assembly, I wandered into Conference Room 1 in the UN's unimaginatively named Conference Building. Here something called "Dialogue Among Civilizations" was being conducted. Conducted by whom and for what purpose I don't know. Although I do know that "Dialogue Among Civilizations" was Iran's idea and, considering the ideas Iran has had in the past, such as holding scores of Americans hostage, having an eight-year war with Iraq, and sponsoring worldwide terrorism, I figured it would be interesting. I was wrong.

    I had missed the morning session where Iran's president, Mohammad Khatami himself, gave a speech that Secretary of State Madeleine Albright called thought-provoking and The New York Times called "vague." And I would have missed the afternoon session if it hadn't (notice to President Holkeri) started fifty minutes late. Somebody on the conference podium, I have no idea who, spent a long time proposing a "Question for Conversation," the question being "How do we focus the conversation on dialogue?" Although I was under the impression that conversation is dialogue, otherwise social life would be like ... like sitting in Conference Room 1 listening to the first speaker on the subject of dialogue, who was former UN Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar, age eighty, who couldn't find the ON button for his microphone and ,when he did find it, said, "For almost sixty years we are dialoguing here." No, no, Javier, twenty minutes by my watch, although I know it seems like sixty years. The former secretary general wanted counties to have "dialogue not only among but within themselves." He said democracy was good for this, although I'll bet the upcoming Bush/Gore debates will argue otherwise.


Excerpted from THE CEO OF THE SOFA by P. J. O'ROURKE. Copyright © 2001 by P. J. O'Rourke. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Meet the Author

P. J. O'Rourke is the best-selling author of nine previous books, including Eat the Rich, Parliament of Whores, and All the Trouble in the World. He writes for Rolling Stone and The Atlantic Monthly.

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The CEO of the Sofa 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you are looking to read something by PJ O'Rourke, go get any book other than this one. It's just not funny, not really witty or edgy, just dry and bland. Parliament of Whores and Eat the Rich were both terrific and this book comes nowhere close. Theodore Korolchuk
Guest More than 1 year ago
The comedic curmudgeon is back and, oh, how we've missed him. Has marriage, fatherhood, and liberal neighbors tamed P. J. O'Rourke? Evidently not for although he now stays closer to home he's still Argus-eyed and his satire is as sassy as ever. Provoking laughter all the way this best selling author of ten books now gives us his jaundiced and juicy views on a myriad of diverse topics, such as Hillary Clinton's book, Venice vs. the Las Vegas Venetian, women in the workplace, social security, the missile defense system, and much more. He's unbaised. Each party and persuasion receives a verbal knuckle rapping from O'Rourke, who has said, 'Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.' Re the United Nations O'Rourke writes, 'They have bagels (at the U.N. Cafeteria) with butter. No cream cheese. No lox. Just butter. At the U.N. they put butter on their bagels. No wonder these people can't achieve peace in the Middle East.' His take on the drug problem is 'The problem with illicit drugs is that nobody knows anything about them - except for those of us who found out too much, and we have memory problems.' O'Rourke's combination of humor and intelligence is rare. As I said, we're glad he's back. Some may welcome him; others may be offended - no one will be bored.