Too much dignity to play for small stakes
October 17, 2008 12:29 PM   Subscribe

Another member of the "Pants Down Republicans" in trouble: PJ O'Rourke has cancer.

Whether his politics are appealing or appalling, one can't deny that his writing is hilarious and that he really does his best to bring reason and sense of life as it should be lived to everything he does, whether traveling at home or abroad, reconciling religion and science, interviewing his drinking buddies, or having serious fun.
posted by Potomac Avenue (60 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I cany deny that his writing is hilarious. It's occasionally reprehensible, trading in cheap prejudices and going after easy tagets like a bully on the playground.

But I don't wish cancer on anybody, and hope he gets well.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:40 PM on October 17, 2008 [3 favorites]

Good luck to him and his malignant hemorrhoid. he’s a dick at times but generally all right.
posted by Artw at 12:42 PM on October 17, 2008

He's one of my favorite panelists on Wait Wait Don't Tell Me. I hope he gets better.
posted by spec80 at 12:43 PM on October 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

“malignant hemorrhoid” totally sounds like an insult that top hated monocle-wearers should throw at each other at the gentleman’s club.
posted by Artw at 12:46 PM on October 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

Arguably one of my top five favorite writers, and I hope he mends quickly. Only he and Vonnegut were able to make me laugh hard about cancer. And, as someone who's also been diagnosed (and, luckily, beaten it -- so far) with the beast, I appreciate both his levity and simultaneous pondering on mortality.

Might have to dust off Parliament of Whores again...
posted by VicNebulous at 12:47 PM on October 17, 2008

"... one can't deny that his writing is hilarious ..."

Except for "The CEO of the Sofa." That book sucked.

Everything else? Hilarious.
posted by jpburns at 12:53 PM on October 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

posted by Edgewise at 1:09 PM on October 17, 2008

When I was young and stupid and didn't care to think things through, I thought this asshole's writing was - indeed - hilarious. Now that I'm older and (somewhat) less stupid and can recognize his brand of humour for what it generally is (a smokescreen for morally dubious - some would say "reprehensible" - positions)...not so much.

That said, he certainly doesn't deserve to die of cancer and I hope he makes a full recovery.
posted by you just lost the game at 1:09 PM on October 17, 2008 [4 favorites]

Parliament of Whores was my intro to him and a great read. Have never liked anything since. But I've always liked PJ because he was one of the writers that Dad and I would both read and then discuss the book. Get well PJ. I hope you have ten more books in you for other fathers and sons to discuss.
posted by vito90 at 1:11 PM on October 17, 2008

Good luck to the malignant hemorrhoid for his speedy recovery.
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 1:11 PM on October 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

My own appreciation for him has waned lately, but Hollidays in Hell is still hilarious.
posted by JHarris at 1:15 PM on October 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

I liked his overseas travel book, whatever it was called. The one that had sections on Korean protests? Anyone remember what it was called?
posted by smackfu at 1:16 PM on October 17, 2008

smackfu, that's Holidays in Hell.
posted by jet_silver at 1:23 PM on October 17, 2008

Hope he gets well, but he's a huge asshole for writing that cyclists deserve to die. Maybe this will give him some perspective.
posted by fixedgear at 1:32 PM on October 17, 2008

I enjoyed and learned a lot from his writings describing his own transition from Revolutionary Communist to Republican. Brought the whole neocon thing into focus.
posted by telstar at 1:33 PM on October 17, 2008

he's a huge asshole for writing that cyclists deserve to die

Oh please. Wake up and smell the sarcasm.

He also wrote a piece called How to Drive Fast on Drugs While Getting Your Wing-Wang Squeezed and Not Spill Your Drink.

"How would your mother feel if she knew you were doing this? She'd cry. She really would. And that's how you know it's fun. Anything that makes your mother cry is fun. Sigmund Freud wrote all about this. It's a well-known fact."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:42 PM on October 17, 2008 [3 favorites]

Uh, fixgear, can you provide a cite for the 'cyclists deserve to die' allegation? I remember a (pretty dumb) Car and Driver piece he wrote 25 years or so ago that mocked cycling and cyclists, but I think we can agree that's not the same as wanting us dead. I'm ready to be corrected, tho, if you can show me the statement.
posted by mojohand at 1:43 PM on October 17, 2008

He made me laugh in his National Lampoon days. Maybe. I don't remember anything he wrote, but I remember looking forward to reading things written by him. Or was it just his name on the masthead I remember? No, I'm sure he made me laugh.

In any case, no one deserves cancer. I wish him well.
posted by pracowity at 1:45 PM on October 17, 2008

I used to distribute copies of The Bachelor Home Companion as moving-out presents for friends. Seems awfully dated now, but it still makes me laugh.

I think he's also the guy who maintained somewhere that "55 mph isn't a speed limit, it's the rate at which a spirited person parks a rental in Chicago."
posted by tangerine at 1:52 PM on October 17, 2008

Do you seriously believe that piece was non-sarcastic? Doesn't, like, the title give it away? Cool and logical ... dreadful peril?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:53 PM on October 17, 2008

Damn, CPB stole my thunder. That's a great essay. It's too bad O'Rourke is a republican in this decade, because it means he is an idiot in addition to having cancer of the bum.
And I can’t be the only person who feels like a jerk saying, “Please cure me, God. I’m under-insured. I have three little children. And I have three dogs, two of which will miss me. And my wife will cry and mourn and be inconsolable and have to get a job. P.S., our mortgage is sub-prime.”
Poor guy, it's like listening to a child try to bargain with Santa Claus.
posted by mullingitover at 1:55 PM on October 17, 2008

Holidays in Hell was one of the books that made me want to be a journalist. I wish him a speedy recovery.
posted by WPW at 2:00 PM on October 17, 2008

Fixedgear, the Swiftian title didn't tip you off?
posted by WPW at 2:02 PM on October 17, 2008

fixedgear I knew that piece, I've gone over it once again, and I still can't see where it says that "cyclists deserve to die". On the other hand, I can reliably determine that you need a sense of humour transplant.

BTW, one of O'Rourke's books is titled "Eat The Rich". As you see it, he must be a cannibal on top of a Marxist...
posted by Skeptic at 2:03 PM on October 17, 2008

Loved his Rolling Stone writings of the '80s. Huge influence on me as an aspiring journalist - I remember telling people at J-school that I'd decided to become a journalist because I wanted P.J. O'Rourke's job.

Most of the RS stuff is collected in Holidays in Hell and All the Trouble in the World. And the Uncle Mike stories from the Lampoon days (collected, I think in longer form, in Age and Guile) are fantastic. See for example "Stuff That Blows Up" (scroll down to it in this link).

I think he's gone Dennis Miller in recent years - too much cantankerous ideological whingeing and old-white-Republican fury, not enough funny - but I wish him many more years of chasing punk kids off his lawn.

And yes, taking deep offence to any one line in O'Rourke's writing is like bitching out Mick Jagger for a misogynist lyric. The whole gig is delivering big gag-filled piles of outrageous snarking iconoclasm, see?
posted by gompa at 2:07 PM on October 17, 2008 [2 favorites]

I disagree with almost everything he says yet I still laugh while doing it. I've always felt you need to regularly read opinions counter to your own to make sure you truly understand what you believe in and there's no reason why you can't enjoy yourself doing it.

I'll be raising a glass to him tonight even though I won't be driving fast, on drugs or (sadly) having my wing-wang squeezed.
posted by tommasz at 2:07 PM on October 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

Upon reflection, he did not say that 'cyclists deserve to die.' Mea culpa. It is still a mean spirited and not side-splittingly funny piece. My sense of humor is very much intact, thanks.
posted by fixedgear at 2:08 PM on October 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

Jesus, six years posting here and it's the PJ O'Rourke ass-cancer thread that inspires my first ever accidental post. Not only is there a god, PJ, he's got one twisted sense of humour. Godspeed . . .
posted by gompa at 2:09 PM on October 17, 2008

. . . accidental double post . . .

*calls gastroenterologist for emergency appointment*

posted by gompa at 2:11 PM on October 17, 2008

95% survival rate? Excellent. Good to know he'll still be around. Need more right-wingers with a sense of humor. Most of them are deadly unfunny. PJ knows where to hit the funny bone.

Speaking of which, check out the joke on page xi of the book in the 2nd link of the FPP. You'll see what I mean.
posted by Mental Wimp at 2:13 PM on October 17, 2008

Looks like someone's been drinking at work again...
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:15 PM on October 17, 2008

I read him alot when we were both younger. Recently, I've read a couple essays and I biught "Eat the Rich".

I hope he beats cancer and lives long and vigourously enough to sincerely regret his Republican phase.
posted by Artful Codger at 2:29 PM on October 17, 2008

A bit of advice from O'Rourke's "Modern Manners" (a parody etiquette book that I recommend highly)...

"HATS: A gentleman should remove his hat when a lady enters the room and leave it off for the rest of his life. Nothing looks stupider than a hat..."
posted by Faze at 2:39 PM on October 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

fixedgear, thanks for the link. Funniest thing I've read this week. Seriously. Pardon me while I tweak the nose of the office cyclista with that article.
St. Paul, in his First Epistle to the Corinthians, 13:11, said, "When I became a man, I put away childish things." He did not say, "When I became a man, I put away childish things and got more elaborate and expensive childish things from France and Japan."
Now that's funny because we all do that*. Get well PJ. Too many have fallen to that devil disease.

*Well, maybe not with French stuff.
posted by trinity8-director at 2:43 PM on October 17, 2008

Part of me wishes that cancer actually was evidence of an evil soul rotting people from the inside out but then we'd all have it.
posted by srboisvert at 2:55 PM on October 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

Part of me wishes that cancer actually was evidence of an evil soul rotting people from the inside out but then we'd all have it.

You're perky today!
posted by WPW at 2:57 PM on October 17, 2008

You're perky today!

He just needs his wing-wang squeezed. Hopefully, he won't spill his drink.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:31 PM on October 17, 2008

Aw, damn. I enjoy his writing a lot, even though I disagree with almost all of his conclusions. I remember reading him back in his Car & Driver days. I hope he makes a speedy recovery.

Oh, and "Christ, what a cancerous asshole."
posted by mosk at 3:51 PM on October 17, 2008

Ugh. Why is this on the front page?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:22 PM on October 17, 2008

Aw. PJ was totally the inspiration for my mid-20s Republican-dating phase. I think I thought if I worked my way up high enough, I'd get to meet him and we would go get smashed on good bourbon together, do a few lines, get kicked out of a casino, set stuff on fire, shake hands and wish each other well at the end of the weekend when we parted ways. Then I'd go back home to my sensitive feminist liberal boyfriend and have to explain the hickeys.

God, all these years later, it still sounds kind of hot.
posted by padraigin at 4:34 PM on October 17, 2008 [2 favorites]

O'Rourke may be on the wrong team but when he's good, he's very good, and I have no trouble admiring his gift for a great gag. His writing has always struck me as potentially being great standup material, better suited to oral delivery than paper in some ways.

I met him when I was a student journalist and he was on a promotional tour in New Zealand for Holidays in Hell. My editor and I went to Auckland and interviewed him in his hotel room. I might have a yellowing clipping in my scrapbook somewhere.

He was a gentleman. Despite the fact that I and my colleagues were 18 year old nebbishes who were clearly appalled at his admiration for Margaret Thatcher, he was polite, gracious, and gave us beer out of the minibar. It's possible there were even cigars.

He has very little in common with the current Republican crew except taking childish delight in annoying liberals, which is a sin more venial than mortal. Perhaps when he gets better he might help put the Republicans back on a sounder footing.

Also, isn't appropriate for a Philistine to be smitten with an emerod?
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 4:51 PM on October 17, 2008

He is my favorite Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me panelist, and i'm pretty sure he has been holding his nose about all the nincompoops in the republican party recently...

Hope he gets better quickly.
posted by schyler523 at 5:04 PM on October 17, 2008

Hope the arsehole transplant goes better than Nixon's.
posted by scruss at 5:38 PM on October 17, 2008

Faze, thanks for bringing up Modern Manners . I love that book and quoted it just today:

“The best way to use a napkin is as a mantilla to imitate your grandmother in church while grace is being said or as a pretend matador’s cape to wave at undercooked beef or as a bandana to cover your face when you pull a stickup on your dinner partner with a lamb-chop pistol and demand ‘a date for the movies next Saturday night or your life.’”
posted by queensissy at 6:35 PM on October 17, 2008 [3 favorites]

He said that Ann Colter always looks like an ex-wife who just finished screaming. I'll mention that since the wing-wang has been mentioned.

Not a republican, don't have a wing-wang, and I admire him nonetheless.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 6:47 PM on October 17, 2008

what is this "nobody deserves cancer bullshit"? i could start a list now and not finish til next week.
posted by kitchenrat at 6:47 PM on October 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

I thought he's been a li'l bit sick for a while...?

The last book of his I read was probably back in college, and though I don't agree with his politics, he really did make me laugh. I still have the copy of Parliament of Whores that was one of the earlier "grown-up" books I actually bought instead of checking out of the library as a teen. I wish him well.
posted by droplet at 7:23 PM on October 17, 2008

He is an asshole, but he's my kind of asshole. I wish him a speedy recovery.
posted by Mister_A at 7:23 PM on October 17, 2008

one can't deny that his writing is hilarious and

oh, it's quite easy to deny, actually. just like the mullet, O'Rourke is a peculiarly distasteful phenomenon of the 1980s -- a comedy writer with delusions of grandeur constantly trying to write above his station -- his travel pieces with that lame "I'll pretend to be an ugly American rube" were all about shtick -- it was simply his way to mask his complete ignorance re: foreign affairs except for "communism = bad" and "foreigners, especially Arabs = subhuman". crack a joke about turbans and hope that no one figures out you don't know dick about the country/war you're supposed to be covering.

it wasn't simply about foreign affairs: his early-1990s move to DC trying in vain to become a pundit -- in a city that was lousy with them, most of them smarter than O'Rourke but that's not saying much -- proved his utter inability to understand domestic politics, too.

in the end he's someone who in the early 80s figured out a way to sell his gags with a comedy act that wore thin very quick -- the "cool" right-winger who drinks and fucks and uses cuss words (in a post-South Park, post-Lewinsky media environment, that sounds quite tame)? O'Rourke is a joke (a sad one)

keep in mind that he didn't need much to make it big -- his career sunk precisely as scores of right wing pundits made off like bandits -- I mean, even barely literate, total tools like Malkin and the Goldberg kid and Glenn Reynolds found themselves better jobs than O'Rourke did. he missed the train of the Gingrich years, the Starr years, and the neocon Bush presidency. he totally missed the Internet (probably because Gore invented it). he's irrelevant in a media environment that'd publish literally anybody as long as they have something dumb and rightwing to say (cue Bill Kristol's unsinkable career)

I mean, outsmarted by O'Reilly and Malkin? that's like losing a chess game with a goldfish.

not to mention, McCain slept with O'Rourke's wife. talk about humiliations, Jesus Christ.

having said this, one sincerely hopes that O'Rourke gets well soon and can continue his very mediocre career in health and good spirits for a long time.
posted by matteo at 7:28 PM on October 17, 2008 [2 favorites]

I'll have to reread his older work imagining I hate his politics because he's such an evil conservative now and see if it changes my opinion of his writing.
posted by smackfu at 7:44 PM on October 17, 2008

I assert that most people here deriding O'Rourke for his politics and accusations of ignorance about foreign affairs simply haven't read his work. I encourage you to do so, because I think you'll find that his viewpoints probably mirror your own more than you would like to admit. Your protestations otherwise would not be very convincing to me; I think you see "Republican" and immediately start making up your mind.

The Republicans are the party that says government doesn't work and then gets elected and proves it. -- P.J. O'Rourke

his travel pieces with that lame "I'll pretend to be an ugly American rube" were all about shtick

Only if you miss the part where it was part of a larger arc where he was harkening back to works by Mark Twain and Evelyn Waugh.

But hey. Mark Twain ... schtick. Got it.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:05 PM on October 17, 2008 [2 favorites]

What's that? An ideological enemy? BURN HIM!
posted by nasreddin at 10:37 PM on October 17, 2008 [3 favorites]

Perhaps an unusual perspective. Until a few years ago, I lived in Khobar, Saudi Arabia. After I left, I was looking at used books, saw one of his, flipped through it, noted there were writings from his Gulf War doings, that he'd been in Khobar, so I bought the thing for something like 50 cents.

As someone noted above, an enormous amount of "locals = inferior, dumb, crass, gauche, etc." If arrogance was heat, he'd be an August afternoon in Saudi Arabia.
posted by ambient2 at 12:42 AM on October 18, 2008

Artw: “malignant hemorrhoid” totally sounds like an insult that top hated monocle-wearers should throw at each other at the gentleman’s club.

All hated monocle-wearers should aspire to such a height.
posted by hattifattener at 12:59 AM on October 18, 2008

matteo P.J. O'Rourke, "Holidays in Hell":

"The press stands accused of holding the Israelis to higher moral standards than it holds other peoples in the Middle East. That's not our fault. Moses started that. Are the Israelis treating the Palestinians any worse than the Palestinians would treat the Israelis if the sandal were on the other foot? Of course not. The Munich massacre and hundreds of killings, bombings, hijackings, rocket attacks and other mad-hat actions prove it. Unfortunately, morality is not a matter of double-entry bookkeeping.

The Israeli-administered hospital in Gaza City, where Arabs wounded in the rioting are treated, was a pile of shit. The floors were dirty, the bathrooms were dirty, and the little kitchens in each floor were pathetic in their filth. The walls had been painted, a very long time ago, in awful landlord colors. Damp marks spread across the ceilings. Screens were missing from the windows and light bulbs from the light fixtures. The hospital looked like the "colored" sections used to look in bus stations down South. The doctors were all Palestinian, but none of them would talk to me for fear of Palestinian ire. The patients, however, were pitifully eager to talk, as if exposing their plight would make any difference in the dead-end hatreds of this land. Maybe the Western powers will intervene, said the Palestinians with forlorn hope. But we've done that before. When Godfrey of Bouillon conquered Jerusalem in 1099, he slaughtered all the Moslems and burned the Jews in their synagogue."

Arrogant? Hardly. Dismissive of foreigners, especially Arabs? Much the contrary. And the rest of the article is equally forceful. His article on Lebanon in '84 ain't bad either.

I am aware that lately P.J. has been guilty of pandering to the douchebag wing of the Republican party. But anyone who once had the guts of writing all of the above, in the US, clearly has his heart in the right place.
posted by Skeptic at 2:21 AM on October 18, 2008 [2 favorites]

I went to see him read some stuff in DC and get a book signed a few years back.

Someone in the audience asked the remarkable question of why there was no one on the left who was similar to P.J. The questions was annoying because of obvious answers like Hunter S Thompson and Garry Trudeau. It showed how sad it is that people can't rate people with whom the disagree with objectively.

The sniping here at Hunter (meh, I just typed Hunter, I'll leave it and imagine this is some right wing equivalent of metafilter) - I mean PJ O'Rourke is just the same. If you can't recognize talent, wit and the good stuff in people you disagree with you've really lost something.

To his credit, when I got the book signed I mentioned those guys and he said, yeah, that's true,I should have thought of that. He was wise enough to overcome partisan differences.

I hope P.J. O'Rourke gets better. You have to admire the hell out of a guy who has cancer and makes jokes about it, even if it is a minor kind.
posted by sien at 4:19 AM on October 18, 2008

Cool Papa Bell, thanks for reminding me of that piece.

All steering should be done with the index finger.

Fantastic. I love how his nightmare vision of a staid future came true, and wish him the best.
posted by generalist at 7:10 AM on October 18, 2008

matteo: not to mention, McCain slept with O'Rourke's wife. talk about humiliations, Jesus Christ.

Wow. It seems it's an unsubstantiated rumor, but still.
posted by JHarris at 12:21 PM on October 18, 2008

Nothing handles better than a rented car.
posted by trondant at 7:33 AM on October 19, 2008

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