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How the Hell Did This Happen?: The US Election of 2016 Paperback – 9 Mar 2017

3.7 out of 5 stars 40 customer reviews

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Paperback, 9 Mar 2017
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Product details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press; Export/Airside edition (9 Mar. 2017)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1611855225
  • ISBN-13: 978-1611855227
  • Product Dimensions: 15.5 x 2 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 444,717 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description


O'Rourke has a nice, world-weary way with the US's present political follies... He hasn't lost his gift for the brutally effective one-liner. Guardian scabrously witty, inventive and rich in historical detail... O'Rourke is never less than pleasurable company. There were chapters in this book I read twice just for the fun of it... I am already looking forward to the companion volume What The Hell Happens Next? The Times extremely funny Sunday Times O'Rourke has a real eye for the vagaries of American politics and, on occasion, piercing insight. Observer O'Rourke has been for decades the wittiest guide to America, and the usual ingredients are packed into this volume. How the Hell Did This Happen? is scabrously witty, inventive and rich in historical detail. The Australian Whether you agree with him or not, P.J. writes a helluva piece. -- Richard Nixon Who better than one of America's most-respected humourists to make sense of an election in which real life frequently appeared to approach satire? The Week P.J. O'Rourke is like S.J. Perelman on acid. -- Chris Buckley P.J. O'Rourke was really the first to inject non-liberal hilarity into political discourse ... But more important, he was able to yank conservatives out of the hands of the humorless and shrill, and make such writing accessible ... He changed my life. -- Greg Gutfeld [O'Rourke] occupies a rare place among the laughing class: He has somehow avoided the orifice obsession that captivates many of its members; he identifies as Republican; and he is no mere thumb-sucker, having visited more than 40 countries to report on wars, regime changes, economic revolutions and the experience of drinking cocktails garnished with the poison sacs of cobras. Wall Street Journal Outspoken conservatives have long been a minority in comedy, particularly in the mainstream media, which provided an opportunity for P.J. O'Rourke, who for decades cornered the market for prominent right-wing humorists ... If his wry essays have a mission statement ... it's this: Starchy -Republicanism is really, really fun. New York Times Book Review As a cultural analyst, O'Rourke's ability and willingness to simultaneously lampoon and celebrate himself and his generation are unequaled. Publishers Weekly

Book Description

An essential take on the stranger-than-fiction 2016 presidential election from a quintessential voice on American politics and culture.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
P. J. O’Rourke has written many books on a wide range of topics, and is a regular columnist in various journals, newsletters etc. His contributions on politics and culture are characterized by no-holds-barred analysis from a conservative viewpoint and are perhaps an acquired taste, particularly if you hold more liberal views. Nevertheless, he is always worth reading and this book is no exception.

O’Rourke analyses the election of Donald Trump as the American President, starting in June 2015 when a large number of hopefuls ‘threw their hats into the ring’. He takes the reader through the seemingly endless round of nominating conventions, primaries and debates, which are integral to the bizarre process whereby America chooses its President, and quickly dismisses just about all of them, including Trump and Clinton, as hopelessly unfit to be President, and deluded in their aspirations. Indeed most would-be candidates survived only a very short time, never to be heard of again, if indeed anyone but their few supporters had heard of them in the first place. Trump’s claim to be a billionaire leading real estate investor are demolished, and Clinton, whose campaign is described as ‘like a 'gerbil in the wheel', is subjected to withering comments, such as ‘The conflicts of interest at the Clinton Foundation were so huge they had to be weighed on Chris Christie's bathroom scale.’ In the end, face with an impossible choice, O’Rourke is forced to say that he will vote for Clinton as the least appalling candidate, with a list of reasons for his choice: ‘better a mangy cat than a rabid dog’ etc.

The narrative is sometimes repetitive and somewhat disjoint, possibly because much seems to have been written quickly during the campaign.
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This book is a bit incoherent and veers between subjects and feels a bit crazy, so a perfect fit for the 2016 Presidential election. The book feels like a collection of articles and essays with the only connecting thread being the election, it is also extremely funny and insightful. For those who have never read any of P.J.O'Rourke's books he is a libertarian (sometime and former Republican) writer who has written on political, economic and general subjects for many years and combines a razor sharp wit, some wickedly funny observational humour and genuinely insightful comment. Although of a rather right wing political bent he is also something of a free spirit and can be just as scathing of the Republican party as of the Democrats.
The subject of the book, the 2016 election, is pretty much beyond parody and satire but P.J. managed to make me laugh out loud throughout the book. Some of his observations can be quite vicious and probably shouldn't be encouraged but they are funny. The book manages to make a profoundly depressing process which was devoid of any redeeming features or positivity into something funny and to see lessons for modern society as a whole. P.J. is a small government libertarian who champions the dignity of humans as individuals and considers that great things are achieved when individuals freely come together in pursuit of common aims rather than as a result of government intervention and central planning. Although considered right wing, in many ways he is more tolerant of personal choices and the right of individuals to lead their own lives than most socialists and liberals and this is certainly not a packaged piece of party political hackery.
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I'm a bit ambivalent about this book. A few of the chapters are very good! Especially the last few chapters, where the author actually gets to his topic. But there are a lot of ramblings about the various candidates (which has probably been written before the election) and about the authors own political views. Interesting - but not what I was looking for, when I bought the book.

I had hoped for more analysis of the errors of the Hilary campaign and the genius of the Trump campaign - and especially something (which is completely absent) why the polls were so wrong.

I have to point out two statements in the book: First that political parties are bad. No! The American problem is, that you only have two of them! If you had more, you wouldn't be branded a traitor, if persons from one party worked with persons from another party!

Second: The author (being a republican) is rambling against higher taxes. He states, that if you took away all the money of the world's billionaires and spread them out among all Americans, each person would get $20,313 - once - and then the money is gone! How absurd!! Please take class 101 of national economics, Mr O'Rourke!! What would the average American do with $20,313 ?? Spend them !! So someone else would earn them (and the state would earn tax). The people who sold the goods to the first person, would earn more money, and spend them again. The money would never dissapear. Except if you let rich folks have them - because they can't spend more than they do! Give a rich guy a tax cut, and nothing happens (or maybe he buys some extra imported caviar). Give a poor guy a tax cut (or state aid) and he buys milk, steaks and clothes - produced locally - generating increased economical activity!
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