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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.) Paperback – June 1, 2000
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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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From the Inside Flap
Travels to hellholes around the globe looking for trouble--from Lebanon to Epcot-- the truth and a good time. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Almost without exceptions the stories in the book cut trough propaganda and bare the truth behind the facades. The "Among the Euro-Weenies", although written some time ago is more and more relevant today.
Moreover, O'Rourke dialogues are short, immensely interesting and compressed, giving points difficult not to accept.
O'Rourke is fairly conservative, in a libertarian sort of way, so if you think Gore is exciting, Hillary (or Bill for that matter) is sexy, and Obama is a black descendant of slaves who fought his way to the top via expensive prep schools, Columbia and Harvard, you probably won't enjoy this book. O'Rourke savages Republicans too, but he seems to enjoy skewering liberals more.
That said, this book is a collection of mostly foreign travels (with some American sites thrown in) to various dysfunctional areas of the world. If you have ever spent time in some of these places, he grasps their essence much better than a serious, straight-up political writer. Probably because he realizes that most politicians and official press agencies are steaming piles of horse-apples.
There are chapters on Lebanon, Russia, Nicaragua, Poland, Korea, El Salvador, Disney World, South Africa, Harvard, the Phillipines, and Panama. Most of these chapters were written at the time of some idealogical war. How can you not laugh at things like the Sandinista Director of Censorship denying there is any censorship by saying, "They [Newspaper La Prensa] accused us of suppressing freedom of expression. This was a lie and we could not let them publish it."
On a somber note, you will note that the same Sandinistas are back in power in Nicaragua, Europeans are still weenies ("Among the Euro-weenies" is still spot on), and all the bureacratic and political shenanigans and ironies are identical to what I suffered last time I tried to get on an airplane. (I never did make it since my 6 year old was on the "no-fly" list. Damn, how did they know he was such a spoiled brat?)
So read this and laugh, and then you can cry later when it all hits home.
I love O'Rourke's writing style and quick wit. Kept me laughing throughout.
Very interesting exploits told thru a very witty style. Keeps you laughing and engaged.
Kinda sad when I reached the end.