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Parliament of Whores: A Lone Humorist Attempts to Explain the Entire U.S. Government Paperback – April 28, 1992

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Editorial Reviews Review

If satirists are at their best when tussling with something they hate, then this is P.J. O'Rourke's masterpiece. He clearly hates government--and has hated it since before it was cool to do so--and for all the right reasons, too: it's clumsy, inefficient, hypocritical, greedy, and arrogant. In other words, it magnifies the faults of the poor saps who staff it. Parliament of Whores is the humorist's howl of bitter laughter at the entire bloated, numskulled mess. As befits an ex-editor of National Lampoon, nothing is out of bounds for O'Rourke. Speaking of the fabled "football"--that satchel that follows the president around 24/7--the author doubts there are really launch codes in there at all--nothing but "a copy of Penthouse and a pint bottle of Hiram Walker--a Penthouse from back in the seventies, when Penthouse was really dirty, I'll bet."

Parliament of Whores is perfect for anyone who longs to cultivate an entertaining brand of cynicism, to be "a lone voice--not crying in the wilderness, thank you, but chortling in the rec room." O'Rourke is a master at making you laugh in spite of the better angels of your nature, and the only negative thing to be said about this tour de force is that his flamethrower brand of satire leaves nothing in its wake--certainly not the suggestion of an improvement. --Michael Gerber

From Publishers Weekly

Conservative O'Rourke takes no prisoners in this deadly accurate number-one bestseller, which spent 28 weeks on PW 's hardcover list. O'Rourke's latest essay collection, Give War a Chance , will be published by Atlantic Monthly Press in May. Author tour.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (April 28, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679737898
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679737896
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 5.2 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (117 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,856,989 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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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.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

85 of 89 people found the following review helpful By Orrin C. Judd VINE VOICE on November 4, 2001
Format: Paperback
Among the current crop of humorists, P. J. O'Rourke is one of the very best. Though it must be acknowledged that he's operating in a target rich environment, his stories of government stupidity, overreach, waste, and arrogance are truly funny. He's pretty much a libertarian, though made uncomfortable by many of the social behaviors that it would allow and overly enamored of the armed forces, so he's just as likely to light out after stupid Republican ideas as he is to castigate Democrats. Parliament of Whores finds him in the perfect position to flail both, as he follows George Bush the elder to Washington in 1989, and sets out to examine the entire U. S. government.
Unsuspecting readers may assume that O'Rourke is just going to snidely lambaste bureaucrats, politicians, institutions, and government generally, but that assumption really underestimates him. He's after much bigger game, as he reveals in the title of the book :
Every government is a parliament of whores. The trouble is, in a democracy, the whores are us.
The various government employees and elected officials actually come out looking pretty good. As portrayed by O'Rourke, they seem for the most part to be genuinely dedicated to their work and trying to do the best they can. It is the American people who come out of this looking pretty awful. Time and again, as he shows how useless, wasteful, and outrageously expensive the myriad government programs are, O'Rourke also makes it clear that they exist, and exist at such bloated sizes, because they have constituencies. And those constituencies are not the easily caricatured and vilified underclass, they are more often the regular work-a-day middle classes.
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32 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Peter Lorenzi on February 9, 2002
Format: Paperback
This clever, biting satire brings laughs to anyone who is both optimistic and cynical about our government. O'Rourke's take on why we get the government we deserve, and what we get in return is sharply insightful and so very funny that readers can forget (at least for a moment) to be sad because the joke is on us.
His budget proposal, from his cuts on bloated agencies to his final cut, the "circumcision" one, is both hilarious and a good, hard look at the way the American federal government throws money around and, often, away.
But it's not their fault, O'Rourke wryly observes. We ask them to do this TO us in the name of doing things FOR us. Or, perhaps, do it to the other guy so they can do something for me. The best idea might simply be to take some of the money off the table and not let them have so much to spend or waste.
Conservatives will love O'Rourke's condemnations and even the most liberal will have to concede many of his points. He's like Peggy Noonan on acid and, for all we know, he just might be. O'Rourke knows how to live on the wild, not just to comment on the other side.
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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful By The Sanity Inspector on September 11, 2000
Format: Paperback
For those of us who came up through the universities in the
Eighties, P. J. O'Rourke (in his conservative incarnation) was a
hurricane of fresh air. After years of finger-wagging about how evil
America is, how the middle-class straight white male taxpayer is the
root of all evil, his satires horse-laughed all that liberal
self-righteousness right out of our systems.
All his books follow
the same convention--he collects his previously published essays of
observational humor, and writes linking material to create a unified
theme. Here, it's the federal government. Example: What are the
three branches of government? Money, television, and b.s. It's hit
or miss, as most humor is, but the hits really score
Whenever I read O'Rourke's stuff aloud to friends, there
isn't a dry seat in the house. I had the great pleasure of telling him
so in person at a book signing once. Parliament of Whores shows
P.J. to be more than a humorist--he is, if nothing else, the present
era's greatest political aphorist. Example: "When buying and
selling are legislated, the first thing to be bought and sold are
legislators." A keeper.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Santiago Foolish on February 7, 2002
Format: Paperback
While various reviewers have called O'Rourke a "fractured voice of rock'n roll Republicanism" and basically complained about this book's lack of redeeming social values (thank God) I'd have to say that this is right up there with some of his best--if you like political satire and you agree that the next time the AFL-CIO or GM gets a new tax loophole, grant, or federal protection, you just might be sick. So it doesn't give a blueprint for Utopia--it just says ..., get government away from us, and points out exactly why. The phrases are tight, funny, and scathingly written. The points are blatant, correct, and you'll disagree with them. I didn't, but I'm a radical. Liberals may hate this book, but if they keep an open mind and think for a bit, they might accidentally become a fractured voice of rock n' roll libertarianism themselves. And then I won't have anything to worry about.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By J. Miller on June 18, 2000
Format: Paperback
Politically correct? Most decidedly not. Politically accurate?Without a doubt. If P.J. O'Rourke's critique of the Americanpolitical system wasn't so devastatingly accurate this book would rank alongside the classics of American humor. Sadly, O'Rourke's apt conclusion about the United States Government is all too true:
"Every government is a parliament of whores. The trouble is, in a democracy, the whores are us."
PARLIAMENT OF WHORES should be required reading in our nation's high schools. If O'Rourke's political treatise was offered as a supplement to the usual dry textbooks which are normally found in our nation's political science classrooms, the United States would have a citizenry whose political activism is unmatched across the globe. Highly recommended.
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