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Holidays in Heck Hardcover – November 1, 2011

3.4 out of 5 stars 41 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“A prolific humorist continues his outpouring of solid writing. . . some very fine travel writing, the best of which is wickedly droll — O'Rourke at his very best. . . . Here's hoping there's another 15 books still to come.”—Los Angeles Times

“[O’Rourke is] just as funny but also challenging himself when working outside of topicality. . . . a likable, brisk little brother to my favorite, 1988’s Holidays in Hell. . . . This is my kind of O’Rourke: grouchy, quick and there to make you laugh.”—San Francisco Chronicle

“In this cheeky follow-up to Holidays in Hell, former war correspondent O’Rourke trades battle zones for more appealing travel destinations, often with his family in tow. . . . The exotic . . . rub shoulders with the more mundane . . . and all of them share O’Rourke’s razor wit. . . . O’Rourke loses none of his sly humor, finding many opportunities to lampoon American politics under his new guise as a traveling family man.”—Publishers Weekly

“O’Rourke offers the fresh perspective of a neophyte civilian and family traveler along with his own acerbic wit about politics, recreation, economics, and family life. . . . The essays are as humorous and charmingly meandering as his travels.”—Booklist

“[O’Rourke] provides colorful, earthy descriptive passages regarding stag hunts in Britain, extreme horseback riding in the wild of Kyrgyzstan, a poignant look at his bout with cancer, and a brief jaunt to Kabul, Afghanistan. Red meat for his fans.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Entertaining . . . [O’Rourke is] an engaging writer, regardless of the topic.”—Library Journal

"A spin with P.J. O'Rourke is like a ride in the back of an old pickup over unpaved roads. You get where you're going fast, with exhilarating views--but not without a few bruises."—The New York Times Book Review on Holidays in Hell

About the Author

P.J. O’Rourke is the author of 13 books, including Parliament of Whores and Give War a Chance, both of which were #1 New York Times best sellers. His most recent book is Don't Vote -- It Just Encourages the Bastards.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press; First Edition edition (November 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780802119858
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802119858
  • ASIN: 0802119859
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.5 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,622,397 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By David J. Delaurant on November 16, 2011
Format: Hardcover
If you follow PJ in the Weekly Standard, you will recognize many of the chapters in this collection. Agree with him or no (I usually do), his prose style remains some of the snappiest and most entertaining around.

Not really a sequel to his "Holidays in Hell" -- more like Dave Barry Does Japan with more politics and fewer boogers.
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Format: Hardcover
Back in the late 80's PJ wrote Parliament of Whores, one of the best and funniest books on politics I have ever had the pleasure of reading. He followed that up in 2010 with Don't Vote! it just encourages the bastards, largely a rewrite of Parliament of Whores, which was funny enough but not as good as its predecessor. Also in the late 80's, PJ wrote Holidays in Hell, one of the best and funniest books on world politics I have ever had the pleasure of reading. Then in 2011 he wrote Holidays in Heck as a ... well, not a sequel, not a rewrite, and not nearly as good as its predecessor. At this rate, if PJ rewrites his Bachelor Home Companion as "The Married Man's Home Companion" in 2012, I may just shed a tear, and not necessarily one of joy.

The young(ish) PJ was full of sound and fury, which in many cases did in fact signify nothing, but in other cases most definitely did not. The more mature PJ can still turn a great phrase, but only one at a time, not a whole string of pointed hilarity leading up to a devastating remark. While Holidays in Hell was the furthest thing from a travel memoir, Heck is pretty much that, just for grumpy old men (of which I am, or will shortly become, one).

This later PJ is still funny (in places), informative, and enjoyable enough. But dammit, I don't read PJ because he is "enjoyable enough".

Look, its alright, its not great, and as far as it goes, good enough. If you like PJ, it's worth a read. If you haven't read PJ O'Rourke before, don't start here: go get Republican Party Reptile, or Parliament of Whores, or Holidays in Hell, and read on from there. With a little luck you'll make it to this soon enough.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As a liberal atheist, PJ is my favorite God-fearing conservative. I acquired a taste for his provocative, thoughtful, sometimes demented writings in college. But unless you find PJ's kids to be as enthralling as PJ obviously does, then you are going to find much of the book downright irritating since much of it is given over to these tots. There was also quite a lot on china but PJ mostly just reports what he's told by the Chinese he encounters - without adding his own observations or drawing any conclusions. What does PJ think about the future of China? You won't find out here. This was a disappointment since the locations that are "heck-like" (China, India, Brazil) are actually much more important IMO than the ones that are hellish (Somalia, Afghanistan, North Korea) and I would much rather hear his assessment of the former than the latter. The best essay in the bunch doesn't seem to fit his theme as it is about PJ's (successful) bout with anal cancer. It was thoughtful and even kind of funny. Potential buyers should be aware that this book is quite different from the usual O'Rourke.
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Format: Hardcover
Any parent who has traveled with children will find something familiar in P.J. O'Rourke's new essay collection, Holidays in Heck. There are a dozen or so finely written pages here. Out of almost three hundred, you have to decide if it's worth the effort to find them. I found his writing mostly droll, and too often, tiresome. Perhaps because I think he's an excellent writer, I expected more from this collection. I felt like he pounded these pieces out without much care, and a few of the best nuggets stand out.

Rating: Two-star (Mildly Recommended)
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Format: Hardcover
There are those who say that P.J. O'Rourke isn't the writer he used to be: that he's turned into a flabby, lazy caricature of himself, soured on too much whiskey, too much life, and too much time spent in the company of the grumpy fringe (right-wing division). In fact, I'm one of those people; I was deeply disappointed by his last two books, Don't Vote -- It Just Encourages the Bastards and Driving Like Crazy, though the former, being almost entirely reheated second-tier laugh lines from Rush Limbaugh, was notably worse than the latter, which both reprinted some work from O'Rourke's younger days and gave him scope to write about something other than how much he hates liberals.

HOLIDAYS IN HECK, though, somewhat restores my faith in O'Rourke: it's a collection of magazine pieces from the past decade, organized chronologically and unified by the fact that nearly every single one of them sees him go somewhere to do something. (The title clearly nods strongly towards O'Rourke's classic collection HOLIDAYS IN HELL, though, back in those days, he was a war correspondent, and so every single place he went was a hell-hole. The choices are much nicer and cushier this time around, befitting a man pushing sixty and dragging a substantially younger wife and three small children behind him.)

Perhaps, like my father-in-law -- and like a million other fathers-in-law across this fine nation of ours -- O'Rourke has become one of those men with whom one must never discuss politics.
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