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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

“Age and Guile Beat Youth, Innocence, and a Bad Haircut: 25 Years of P.J. O’Rourke”, by P.J. O'Rourke

341 pages, Atlantic Monthly Press, ISBN-13: 978-0871136091

Age and Guile Beat Youth, Innocence, and a Bad Haircut is I think the first time that I have seen a three-item list with correct grammar in a book printed in the United States in the recent past. As should be known by now, P. J. O’Rourke is a very funny guy; politically incorrect (well, in most cases) and more than happy to pull out the jokes, puns, and other humorous concepts his liberal colleagues wouldn’t dare touch lest they offend someone in their political fold.  He is also a tremendous boon to right-wing American as he isn’t afraid to take pot-shots at just about anything (including fellow members of the right; Pat Buchanan is roasted almost as often as Bill Clinton) nor to admit his mistakes (such as endorsing Clinton in 1992, if you can imagine).  Combine all of this and for most of this book you have a tremendously funny read, an almost literary roasting of such things as book tours, drinking, stupid sports, Whitewater, various makes and models of automobile, and the like. Unfortunately, it’s the part that falls outside the realm of “most” that keeps this from being one of the finest political collections of the past decade. There are times when O’Rourke, who seems at times to be parroting on the official Libertarian party line, veers far off to the left on certain cultural issues. He also (and he is well aware of this) asks a lot of our indulgence in the book’s second section, which is a collection of short stories published (well, most of them) in the National Lampoon during his tenure as editor in chief there. Anyone who still wonders why I abhor the very idea of self-publishing need only read the section “The Truth About the Sixties and Other Fictions” in this book: it is, shameless, awful, contorted, constipated prose, and O’Rourke even says so in a few places. But if you skip that section and stop reading any time you find one of those places where conservatives suddenly dismiss anything relating to logic then this is most definitely a worthwhile book.

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