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31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Return of the death of the bride of sanctimoniousness, 11 Oct 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Give War a Chance: Eyewitness Accounts of Mankind's Struggle Against Tyranny, Injustice and Alcohol-free Beer (Paperback)
PJ O'Rourke has been described by bemused interviewers as a Surprisingly Nice Guy. To which the most pertinent response is: Be afraid, be very afraid. To those disappearing into the welcome, sucking grasp of the swamp of BBC/CNN PC convention, the sight of this cigar-wielding, whiskey-loving son of Ohio stalking about in his red, blue and white wellies, giving both barrels to every critter that moves, must be like Dante's first glimpse of Hell. Even more scary, though, is the druggy disorientation this modern Mephistopheles invokes in you when you open one of his books, especially Give War A Chance, and especially if you're committed (as I was when I first encountered him) to the idea, an article of faith in Student Union Bibles across the Western world, that unapologetic defenders of free markets and US interventionism are invariably cross-eyed boondock types who snack on newborns.
This book is probably the best point of entry into PJ's world, representing as it does a perfect fulcrum between the sardonic insults he hurled so devastatingly in 1987's Holidays From Hell, and the exasperated elder-statesman-of-journalism musings of his more recent work. The last quarter or so of Give War A Chance is taken up with his despatches from the frontline of the Gulf War, and are worth the price of the book alone. Before this, however, we visit Berlin in November 1989, Paraguay, post-Cold War Kiev and Vietnam, and free elections in Nicaragua, with detours through the horribly fatuous autobiographical mumblings of Lee Iacocca and Jimmy Carter, and pause on our travels to witness the cruel humiliation of the entire mid-eighties famine relief industry (the banner over the stocks displays the excellent legend: Fiddling While Africa Starves).
PJ O'Rourke is frightening to his enemies for two reasons. Firstly, the most bile-encrusted 'sandalista' (his word) would have a stroke trying to suppress his or her seizures of mirth while reading, for example, the chapter on Dr Ruth Westheimer. O'Rourke is almost intolerably funny. He drops one-liners into the ends of paragraphs with such an incisive eye (and ear) for timing that you have to give up on the narrative for a moment and go back to savour the passage again. Quotes taken out of context generally don't do PJ any favours, but I offer this one nonetheless: 'It's impossible to get decent Chinese takeout in China, Cuban cigars are rationed in Cuba, and that's all you need to know about communism.' And that's all you need to know about O'Rourke's punchy, wit-and-wisdom-laden prose style.
The second reason that reading this book will put the willies up anyone who wears left-liberal clothes is that, while O'Rourke is in deadly earnest about what he believes in, he nonetheless lampoons himself, his own profession of journalism, and US politics, with a mercilessness that matches anything he writes about his leftist bugbears. He comes across as an intelligent, cultured person, with impressive knowledge in areas such as architecture, history and literature; and, hardest of all for those instinctively prejudiced against him to acknowledge, he's a kind and humane man, with a bedrock of principles beneath the gonzo exterior. Almost every book he's written has lots to commend it, but Give War A Chance is the third in PJ's late 80s/early 90s trio of really great ones. It's just possible, I suppose, to read this book without having your thought-processes stimulated; your funny-bone, however, will NOT escape.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 7 May 2012 13:15:03 BDT
glad2bhere says:
so nice to read a feisty review,really makes me want to go read it, thanks,
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A Customer