Humorist P. J. O'Rourke has always been a sly, strong advocate of automobiles: "We're told cars are dangerous. It's safer to drive through South Central Los Angeles than to walk there. We're told cars are wasteful. Wasteful of what? Oil did a lot of good sitting in the ground for millions of years. We're told cars should be replaced by mass transportation. But it's hard to reach the drive-through window at McDonald's from a speeding train." His Driving Like Crazy is a grand compilation of his writings about dream cars, SUVs, family trips in station wagons, and naughty things one shouldn't do while driving. A classic smooth ride.
When O'Rourke is on his game, he's as funny a writer as we have now, and even though many of the tales with which he regales us are certifiable stretchers, what matters is that they're funny, not whether they're true. If they really were true, O'Rourke would have been dead at least a quarter-century ago, yet here he is now, at the astonishing age of 62, purring along a lot more smoothly than those Buicks of yore about which he writes with more or less equal measures of affection and exasperation
The Washington Post
Yes, this book is a monument to slash-and-burn living, glorifying old cars whose miles-per-gallon ratings read like shoe sizes and indulgent off-road races conducted in fragile terrain. The thing is, you'll hardly hear the cries of the rare lizards and cactuses being ground to extinction under O'Rourke's tires because you'll be laughing too hard. Sure, he's personally responsible for the impending death of our race and planet, but at his best…the guy's hilarious.
The New York Times
Humorist O'Rourke shifts gears, covering and combining past pieces on cars (for Automobile, Car and Driver, Esquire and Forbes) with new material to set this auto anthology in motion. Much has been reworked "because the writing-how to put this gently to myself-sucked." Starting with car journalism language ("Drop the bottle and grab the throttle"), he steers the reader toward California cars: "Many automobiles were purchased to attract members of L.A.'s eight or ten opposite sexes." He writes about a variety of vehicles, from off-road racers to Philippine jeepneys ("a Willys cut in half and lengthened"). Accelerating the humor, he updates his 1979 account of a 700-mile weekend trip through Michigan and Indiana: "I can imagine what the farm girls and small town teen angels who looked so longingly at the Harley-Davidson FXE-80 Super Glide would have thought if I had been riding a Segway: 'dork.'A " His early essay "How to Drive Fast on Drugs While Getting Your Wing-wang Squeezed and Not Spill Your Drink" is followed by wild road trips, NASCAR nights and selecting "a new grocery hauler, parent trap, Keds sled, family bus." Never in neutral, O'Rourke offers laughter on wheels. (June)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
An original writer for the National Lampoon, O'Rourke (Peace Kills) knows a thing or two about satire. Here he collects material from the past 30 years as well as some new essays about the automobile. With the car industry under attack, both socially and economically, it is pleasing to read O'Rourke's trenchant analysis of all the good things the automobile has brought to American society, even as his tongue is firmly planted in cheek. He is an automobile lover whose work has appeared in Automobile magazine, Car and Driver, Esquire, and Forbes. If O'Rourke loves his SUV, thinks the auto executives are to blame for the current industry problems, and believes it is an American right to drive fast in gas-guzzling machines, then he is probably in the majority. VERDICT Much of this material will be new to casual readers and, to the rest, a reminder of a talented writer at work. A great book for summer reading; thumbing through it elicits a laugh at almost any point. [See Prepub Alert, LJ12/09.]Eric C. Shoaf, Univ. of Texas Lib. at San Antonio
Eric C. Shoaf
Hard-edged humorist O'Rourke (On the Wealth of Nations: Books That Changed the World, 2007, etc.) certifies his American manliness with a gathering of automotive reveries, most of them originally published in Esquire, Rolling Stone and Car and Driver. Certainly the funniest guy on the right side of the political road, the author begins with a youthful essay about "How to Drive Fast on Drugs While Getting Your Wing-Wang Squeezed and Not Spill Your Drink." That piece predates "Taking My Baby for a Ride," which regards the safe transportation of his children-in anything other than the cursed minivan, of course. O'Rourke also includes the requisite recollections of road trips, including a cross-country journey in a '56 Buick, already two decades old and cursed with vapor lock; and a few expeditions to Mexico likely to appeal only to like-minded car enthusiasts. The author presents an appreciation of Jeeps in everyday life in the Philippines; writes fondly about his discovery of NASCAR; and provides the obligatory fond memories of jalopies of yesteryear. For the most part, the waggish reporter eases up on his accustomed libertarian fun as he happily tools along in his Roadmaster, coasting along and sometimes going a little too light on the brakes. Ultimately, he proudly declares that his is a car guys' book. A joy ride for those who crave a Corvette Stingray or care about torque; others may want to get out at the next light.