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Holidays in Hell: In Which Our Intrepid Reporter Travels to the World's Worst Places and Asks, "What's Funny About Thi (O'Rourke, P. J.) [Kindle Edition]

P. J. O'Rourke
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $12.00
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Book Description

Now available from Grove Press, P. J. O'Rourke's classic, best-selling guided tour of the world's most desolate, dangerous, and desperate places. "Tired of making bad jokes" and believing that "the world outside seemed a much worse joke than anything I could conjure," P. J. O'Rourke traversed the globe on a fun-finding mission, investigating the way of life in the most desperate places on the planet, including Warsaw, Managua, and Belfast. The result is Holidays in Hell--a full-tilt, no-holds-barred romp through politics, culture, and ideology. P.J.'s adventures include storming student protesters' barricades with riot police in South Korea, interviewing Communist insurrectionists in the Philippines, and going undercover dressed in Arab garb in the Gaza Strip. He also takes a look at America's homegrown horrors as he braves the media frenzy surrounding the Reagan-Gorbachev summit in Washington D.C., uncovers the mortifying banality behind the white-bread kitsch of Jerry Falwell's Heritage USA, and survives the stultifying boredom of Harvard's 350th anniversary celebration. Packed with P.J.'s classic riffs on everything from Polish nightlife under communism to Third World driving tips, Holidays in Hell is one of the best-loved books by one of today's most celebrated humorists.

Editorial Reviews Review

No doubt about it: P. J. O'Rourke has a bizarre sense of fun. "What I've ... been," he writes in his introduction to Holidays in Hell "is a Trouble Tourist--going to see insurrections, stupidities, political crises, civil disturbances and other human folly because ... because it's fun." Forget Hawaii or the Poconos--O'Rourke gets his jollies in places like war-torn Lebanon where he is greeted at the border by a gun barrel in his face, or Seoul, just in time for election-day violence. Wherever he goes, however, O'Rourke takes his quirky sense of humor, laser eye for detail, and artful way with words: a Philippine army officer is "powerful-looking in a short, compressed way, like an attack hamster," and the Syrian army is described as having "dozens of silly hats, mostly berets in yellow, orange and shocking pink, but also tiny pillbox chapeaux.... The paratroopers wear shiny gold jumpsuits and crack commando units have skin-tight fatigues in a camouflage pattern of violet, peach, flesh tone and vermilion on a background of vivid purple. This must give excellent protective coloration in, say, a room full of Palm Beach divorcees in Lily Pulitzer dresses."

O'Rourke's flip, sarcastic style isn't for everyone, of course; the concept that anyone could find sightseeing in the Beirut or El Salvador of the 1980s fun might prove offensive to more than a few readers right off the bat. But love him or hate him, P. J. O'Rourke knows how to tell a good story, and if you like your travel writing laced with more than a little cynicism, Holidays in Hell could be just the book you've been looking for.


'The first few pages of this book made me laugh so much I dropped it on my month-old baby... Holidays in Hell is a splendid read' EVENING STANDARD

Product Details

  • File Size: 1962 KB
  • Print Length: 276 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0802137016
  • Publisher: Grove Press (December 1, 2007)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B008X5Y87A
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #153,483 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Being This Funny Should Be Against the Law March 16, 1999
No, this man is too much. I have never read anyone funnier or smarter. From his exalted brilliance in Parliament of Whores to his latest Eat the Rich, P.J. O'Rourke manages to make me laugh out loud on nearly every page. My husband is trying to sleep and I'm pulling his arm saying, just one more, let me read you just one more thing, and then we laugh till we cry. I don't know. P.J. should not be allowed to be this funny. His former editor in Rolling Stone told me that in real life he is every bit as mirthful. I will say that the cynicism has just got to end at EPCOT. I draw the line at Disney World. Everything else is up for grabs, Beirut, Warsaw, go ahead, yuck it up. But leave WDW alone; have you not been on the Maelstrom Ride?
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Wonder what it would be like to travel to dangerous places as an American tourist? Places like Lebanon, El Salvador, The Phillippines, and Palestine (all during times of active insurrection, of course)? No need... P. J. has done it for you. Reading this book you really get the feeling of having been to these places. It's a miracle P. J. survives even just the opening chapter, a casual ramble across Lebanon during their civil war. His sense of humor through all this is reminiscent of Dave Barry, full of flippant remarks and strange juxtapositions, yet on a deeper level his observations are also deadly serious. (They are occasionally quoted in decidedly serious policy magazines such as "The Economist", for example.) Reading this book may explain for you a lot about why the third world is at it is, but it's also a fun read and a good adventure at the same time.
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26 of 30 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars P.J. is the man August 3, 2000
"Holidays in Hell" was the first book to collect the travel writings of P.J. O'Rourke for Rolling Stone magazine. Though a bit dated taday (these stories were from the mid 1980s) it is still quite funny and full of classic P.J. He establishes his mantra here, basically that if you really want to know whats going on in a country you should never interview its politicians who will never tell you the straight story. In this book, P.J. travels to Poland, Lebanon, Panama and Heritage U.S.A. among other places. But the best essay is called "Through Darkest America: Epcot Center" that is an absolutely dead on drubbing of the so-called Magic Kingdom. Through it all O'Rourke reminds me of a more political and funnier Bill Bryson. This book is well worth a read.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best of P.J. O'Rourke July 21, 2002
By A Customer
I read this in 1989, but I still like to go back to it. It's a classic and I believe, the best of P.J.'s books (I have almost all). Though, it seems dated now, going back to '80's history feels like yesterday and I have never forgotten certain lines, like when he was in bleak Warsaw, how "commies love cement." And if you think he encounters only the bizarre international world, his chapters on "Heritage USA (remember Jim & Tammy Bakker's Christian theme resort?) and Epcot Center remind us that the good 'ol USA has some wackiness of its own. His ramble through Lebanon (post Beirut war) where "the beaches, though shell-pocked...are not crowded and ruins of historical interest abound, in fact, block most streets" displays his intelligent humor for places lacking any humor at all. In fact, it reads like some Fodor's Travel Horror Guide, where in El Salvador "you pick [your hotel] according to the kind of fear you prefer."
Whether it was because P.J. was young, fresh and writing for Rolling Stone and other mags at the time, I don't know, but he has never quite matched this level of writing he set up for himself. His "All The Trouble In The World" would be my second pick if you like this one and I just don't see how anyone can't love "Holidays In Hell."
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The more you know, the funnier it is October 9, 2001
Peege & I would probably never ever vote the same way, but he is one of the sharpest guys on the planet, and not afraid to toss barbs at his fellow conservatives when they deserve it. I own several of his books, but it's Holidays In Hell that I treasure.
The majority of these essays were published in Rolling Stone, and Revenge of the Euroweenies was the first of his essays that I read. That essay was so funny and so ... true ... that I found myself calling friends long distance to read passages to them. Soon thereafter, Holidays In Hell was published and I read it cover to cover with lightening speed, howling all the way. The thing about Peege is that he's not only witty and clever, but many of the essays are thought-provoking and insightful when you look past the funny surface.
The next summer I spent 3 months in Guatemala with an archaeological expedition, and found that Peege was right on the money about so many things. (The essay on driving should be handed out to all Americans upon arrival in any 3rd world country.) I've given this book as a birthday or Christmas present to everyone I know who's been to a trouble spot. Even though it's over 10 years old, and political situations change, it's still a hoot.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Innocents Abroad" for the 20th century February 20, 2004
Hilarious, insightful and succinct. No word is wasted, and even the smallest throwaway jokes will elicit a chuckle. Even when faced with the most dire situations in the most foreign of lands, the author resists the impulse to grandstand or pander. O'Rourke is the 20th century's answer to Mark Twain or H.L. Mencken, but less of a blowhard than either of those two. This book is a seminal work of gonzo reporting and modern non-fiction, and should be required reading for anyone wanting to be a foreign correspondent.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Loved it.
Published 11 days ago by Catwrangler2000
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
You don't get any better than P.U. O'Rourke
Published 19 days ago by S.E.
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great book
Published 3 months ago by Linda Cosby
5.0 out of 5 stars Pj is a riot
Published 5 months ago by chris breen
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Funny. Hasn't changed since days at National Lampoon.
Published 6 months ago by KSL
4.0 out of 5 stars Good book
Good book. I enjoyed reading it. I've been to some of the places he describes and am thankful my adventures were better (i.e., less exciting) than his. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Jsmith
5.0 out of 5 stars Nice read in the safety of your own home.
Whee! If I were inclined to travel to any of the places the author has gone to; I hope I would have his matchless sense of humor. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Virginia V. Simpson
5.0 out of 5 stars My favorite book ever
I read Holidays in Hell back in the 1980s when I was a kid, over and over again. I loved the style and was smitten by O'Rourke's narrator persona. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Amazon Customer
3.0 out of 5 stars A pleasant read
A compilation of observations made when the author was a news journalist travelling through different, mostly uncomfortable, parts of the world. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Alvin Dix
4.0 out of 5 stars One of P.J.'s best
Excellent book! It was actually my second time through it and I laughed just as hard this time as the first time. P.J. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Brian Graff
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More About the Author

P. J. O'Rourke was born and raised in Toledo, Ohio, and attended Miami University and Johns Hopkins. He began writing funny things in 1960s "underground" newspapers, became editor-in-chief of National Lampoon, then spent 20 years reporting for Rolling Stone and The Atlantic Monthly as the world's only trouble-spot humorist, going to wars, riots, rebellions, and other "Holidays in Hell" in more than 40 countries. He's written 16 books on subjects as diverse as politics and cars and etiquette and economics. His book about Washington, Parliament of Whores, and his book about international conflict and crisis, Give War a Chance, both reached #1 on the New York Times best-seller list. He is a contributing editor at The Weekly Standard, H. L. Mencken fellow at the Cato Institute, a member of the editorial board of World Affairs and a regular panelist on NPR's Wait... Wait... Don't Tell Me. He lives with his family in rural New England, as far away from the things he writes about as he can get.


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