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3.9 out of 5 stars35
3.9 out of 5 stars
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on 9 June 2004
This is a brilliant collection of articles written about some of the world's worst trouble spots, and few spots that are awful without being troubled. Nobody else writes like O'Rourke, only he can vividy convey the awfulness of a place and still be funny as well. The tone of the articles ranges from the harrowing 'Christmas in El Salvador' to the purely comic 'Weekend Getaway; Heritage USA' which describes a visit to a Biblical theme park. His girlfriend attempts to go shopping int he park and returns with "a dazed, perplexed expression, like a starved Ethiopian given a piece of wax fruit" I know the feeling, Disneyland Paris had exactly the same effect on me. 'In Whitest Africa' written a few years before the end of apartheid, is absolutely fascinating, and 'The Holy Land, God's Monkey House' is almost unbearably sad, but still with touches of humour among the horror. 'Among the Euro-Weenies' is painful to read if you are one, but funny all the same. 'The Piece of Ireland that Passeth all Understanding' is perhaps the most brilliant article in the book, though it would be tough to choose, but it's so much better than the banal, ignorant piece by Michael Moore in his last book. Will troulbe ever end? Probably not, as O'Rourke writes in his introcution to this book "It will always be more fun to carry a gun around in the hills and sleep with ideology-addled college girls than to spend life behind a water buffalo or rotting in a slum". Absolutely brilliant. Take advantage of Amazon's special offer and buy this one with 'Give War a Chance' that's wonderful too.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 5 September 2013
P.J. O'Rourke, is in my opinion one of those authors, who deserve a disclaimer. If you take things literally, he is likely to offend and mincing words or trying to appear a happy go lucky 'we are all special in our own ways' is clearly not his forte. Most of the time he is over the top, and not just slightly so.

At the same time, I found this book very well observed and in many ways not as extreme as some of his other writing (the opening story in the car focused Driving Like Crazy: Thirty Years of Vehicular Hell-bending, Celebrating America the Way It's Supposed To Be -- With an Oil Well in Every Backyard, a Cadillac ... of the Federal Reserve Mowing Our Lawn comes to mind).

Sure, if destinations chosen include Lebanon in 1984, El Salvador and Cold War Poland, there is unpleasantness to be expected and his take on things may very well be way beyond the politically correct. The fact that the stories are all from the 1980s will also make this only remotely useful as a tourist guide (even if in some cases the detail and helpfulness of advice would shame a modern day Lonely Planet guide).

If, on the other hand, you are looking for a very alternative take on places and events, which would never make it into conventional travel writing, can laugh at things, which are extremely non-PC and find hyperbole appealing, the book is an excellent, funny and insightful way to spend time. Also, if you like Alan Coren (for instance 69 for 1) but always wondered what a Frankie Boyle cover version of him would look like, you will not go far wrong with P.J. O'Rourke.
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VINE VOICEon 2 August 2014
I own a few of O'Rourke's books and find the quality very variable. Some are funny, some are turgid and some of his early stuff is just a bit dated, and not in a good way.

'Holidays in Hell' is, by a fair distance, the one I have enjoyed and re-read the most. He veers from self-parodic "Yank abroad" to making some pretty thoughtful points. Having been written in the Eighties, there is also an interest to be had when comparing then and now.

I don't agree with much of PJ's worldview, but this is a very good example of his writing.
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on 30 September 2013
Not for the easily offended - the author appears from the style of writing to be totally insensitive and amoral, but raises a lot of really valid points in an entertaining way. He allows the reader to take the higher moral ground whilst provoking some really deep questions. Still very valid today, the place names may come and go, but the incongruity of the hotspots is constant
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on 8 December 2015
I was hooked on the introduction where he tells you where to sit in restaurants to avoid being blown up and soiling yourself (in Lebanon) or to avoid someone parking their Fiat 500 in your linguini (Italy). Funny poignant and very well written, whether you agree with his politics or not, he is a funny articulate
writer
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on 3 August 2003
I learned to stop worrying and love PJ through this book. Sure he's a crotchety old rightwinger, but he is still a whole lot more funny and cutting than Michael Moore whose politics I agree with more. Why can't the left have a man as funny? Not really a travel book, but somehow is too. Riots, religion and fornication. What more can you ask for?
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on 21 September 2013
As well as bringing to mind previous conflicts, especially in the middle-east, this is a reminder of the contrast between current social mores such as "political correctness" and the way we looked at the rest of the world back then. Typical O'Rourke in many ways, and a good few valid serious points made.
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on 9 December 2013
Staying in the world's trouble spots seems a damn-fool enterprise, but PJ manages to raise a few laughs whilst describing the violence and squalor. He tries hard to understand the intractable problems facing us across the cultural divide.
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on 10 September 2013
He writes in a sort of gonzo style, witty in the American way. Haven't finished it yet. It came out in the 80's, so maybe there are even more war-zones now to take a holiday in? Interesting as background to compare then with now.
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on 22 October 2013
This was one of the funniest and scariest books I have read in a long time - the author is an exceptional writer not to mention very brave to get himself into such situations. A must buy!
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