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P. J. O’Rourke is one of his generation’s most celebrated political humorists, hailed as “the funniest writer in America” by both Time and The Wall Street Journal. Twenty-three years ago, he published the classic travelogue Holidays in Hell, in which he trotted the globe as a “trouble tourist,” a chaos rubberneck, sight-seeing at wars, rebellions, riots, political crises, and other monuments of human folly. After the Iraq War — “too old to keep being scared stiff and too stiff to keep sleeping on the ground” — he...
P. J. O’Rourke is one of his generation’s most celebrated political humorists, hailed as “the funniest writer in America” by both Time and The Wall Street Journal. Twenty-three years ago, he published the classic travelogue Holidays in Hell, in which he trotted the globe as a “trouble tourist,” a chaos rubberneck, sight-seeing at wars, rebellions, riots, political crises, and other monuments of human folly. After the Iraq War — “too old to keep being scared stiff and too stiff to keep sleeping on the ground” — he retired from what foreign correspondents call “being a s**thole specialist.” But he couldn’t give up traveling to ridiculous places, often with his wife and three young children in tow. Usually he was left wishing he were under artillery fire again.
O’Rourke’s journeys take him to locales both near (and nearly bizarre) and far (and far from normal). Having made a joke that Ski magazine takes seriously, he winds up on a family ski vacation — to Ohio. The highest point of elevation is the six-foot ski instructor his wife thinks is cute. Convinced by an old friend and one too many drinks that “a horse trek is just backpacking on someone else’s back,” he finds himself (barely) in the saddle, crossing the mountains to a part of Kyrgyzstan so remote that the Kyrgyzs have never seen it. He visits Kabul for the food and conversation (excellent lamb chops and a droll after dinner story about the mullah and the cow). He even takes his kids to his erstwhile home away from home, the bar at the Foreign Correspondents Club in Hong Kong.
Holidays in Heck shows P. J. O’Rourke in top form — a little older, a little wiser, going to the bathroom a little more often, but just as darkly funny as he was in Holidays in Hell. Here is a hilarious and often moving portrait of life in the fast lane, as he’s always lived it — only this time with the backseat driver that marriage entails and three small hostages to fortune strapped into the booster seats.
“[O’Rourke is] just as funny but also challenging himself when working outside of topicality. . . . a likable, brisk little brother to my favorite, 1988’s Holidays in Hell. . . . [T]his is my kind of O’Rourke: grouchy, quick and there to make you laugh.”—San Francisco Chronicle
“If all of America’s registered Republicans were struck by an ideology-specific bird flu, and 50 among them had to be placed in a secure bunker to repopulate the species entirely, P.J. O’Rourke would hold a place on many people’s list, mine included. He’s funny. He tends to be against boredom and in favor of the pursuit of nonsobriety. He has a sharp nose for cant and bogusness. His conservatism is rooted in a fondness for ordinary things and a philosophy of individual common sense.”—Dwight Garner, The New York Times
“In this cheeky follow-up to Holidays in Hell, former war correspondent O’Rourke trades battle zones for more appealing travel destinations, often with his family in tow. . . . The exotic . . . rub shoulders with the more mundane . . . and all of them share O’Rourke’s razor wit. . . . O’Rourke loses none of his sly humor, finding many opportunities to lampoon American politics under his new guise as a traveling family man.”—Publishers Weekly
“O’Rourke offers the fresh perspective of a neophyte civilian and family traveler along with his own acerbic wit about politics, recreation, economics, and family life. . . . The essays are as humorous and charmingly meandering as his travels.”—Booklist
“Holidays in Heck is P.J. O’Rourke’s sequel to Holidays in Hell. While the two books are distinguished by their time and O’Rourke’s evolving position in life, they are connected by P.J’s never-aging humor. . . . I loved Holidays in Heck just as much as its prequel. P. J. is helping us all get older.” —Rick Robinson, The Daily Caller
“Entertaining . . . [O’Rourke is] an engaging writer, regardless of the topic.” —Library Journal
“[O’Rourke] provides colorful, earthy descriptive passages regarding stag hunts in Britain, extreme horseback riding in the wild of Kyrgyzstan, a poignant look at his bout with cancer, and a brief jaunt to Kabul, Afghanistan. Red meat for his fans.”—Kirkus Reviews
Introduction: A Former War Correspondent Experiences Frightening Vacation Fun 1
1 Republicans Evolving: The Galapagos Elands, April 2003 7
2 Monumental Generations: The National World War FL Memorial, Washington, D.C. June 2004 17
3 Round on the Ends and "Hi!" in the Middle: Ohio Skiing, February 2005 23
4 Riding to the Hounds versus Going to the Dogs: Britain after the Hunting Ban, March 2005 35
5 My EU Vacation: Reading the European Constitution on a French Beach, Guadeloupe, May 2005 53
6 On First Looking into the Airbus A380: Toulouse, June 2005 59
7 If You Think Modern Life Is Awful, You Haven't Seen Modern Art: Venice Biennale, July 2005 75
8 My Wife's Got a Gun: Brays Eland Plantation, South Carolina, February 2006 85
9 A Freedom Ride through China: Spring 2006 95
10 Side Trip Up the Yangtze: June 2006 127
11 A Horse of a Different Color: Kyrgyzstan, July 2006 141
12 Sweet-and-Sour Children and Twice-Fried Parents to Go: Hong Kong, December 2007 159
13 The Big Stick, or Why I Voted for John McCain: USS Theodore Roosevelt, April 2008 177
14 White Man Speak with Forked Tongue: The Field Museum, Chicago, May 2008 187
15 The Decline and Fall of Tomorrow: Disneyland, June 2008 199
16 A Journey to … Let's Not Go There: Summer 2008 213
17 The Seventy-Two-Hour Afghan Expert: Kabul, July 2010 227
18 Capital Gains: Washington, D. C, August 2010 253
19 Home Unalone: New Hampshire, March 2011 263
Posted March 18, 2012
Posted December 19, 2011
I enjoy O'Rourke's writing; he has a much better sense of humor and self-deprecation than other well-known "conservatives."
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