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Republican Party Reptile: The Confessions, Adventures, Essays, and (Other) Outrages of... Paperback – September 29, 1995
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"When I was nineteen, I embarked on the obligatory collegiate flirtation with Marxism and announced it loudly to everyone. Once, when I was home at Christmas, my grandmother took me aside. "Pat", she said, "I've been worrying about you. You're not turning into a democrat, are you?"
"Grandma", I said. "Democrats and Republicans are both fascist pigs. LBJ is slaughtering helpless Vietcong and causing riots in America's inner cities and oppressing workers and ripping off the masses. I'm not a democrat! I'm a Maoist!"
"Just so long as you're not a democrat", said my grandmother". (p. x1v)
His essay, 'An Intellectual Experiment', is wonderful. He compares information gleaned from reading an issue of the New York Review of Books to an evening watching network television. It had me in stitches. His conclusions were:
"Whether smart is worse than stupid or vice versa is an important question. Smart means neo-expressionist paintings, which are awful. But stupid means music videos which are pretty awful, too. Ignorance is stupid, but education causes college students. Logic is smart, but Marxism is logical. Smart people don't start many fights. But stupid people don't build many hydrogen bombs. Then again, smart people would never drop one. Or would they?" (p.14-15)
I loved his essays on 'Hollywood Etiquette' and 'The Pick-up Truck". I devour his books. No matter what party line you succumb to, O'Rourke will have you belly laughing.
Still, this entire effort was greatly redeemed by a few pieces that were absolutely spot on. One was "Ship of Fools" in which our intrepid reporter signed up for a cruise ship tour on the Volga in the USSR, based on an ad he'd read in "The Nation" magazine. He joins up with myriad groups of American leftists whose desire to see Soviet life in the best possible light overwhelms any qualities of observation or common sense they might happen to possess. These unfortunates are the targets of PJ's satire at its absolute best as he rips into them repeatedly for their blatant toadying on behalf of the Soviet system. Rarely has the banality of evil been described with such zest.
But even this pales in comparison to the book's crown jewel, namely a short article entitled simply "Ferrari refutes the Decline of The West". It is, on one level, a great road trip story, in which he and his boss drive from New York to LA in a brand new Ferrari 308GTS at speeds as high as 140 mph. Anyone who's ever lusted after exotic sports cars, or fantasized about driving on public roads at double or even triple the speed limit will love it on a purely visceral level, but that's only part of the pleasure, since PJ uses this drive as a metaphor for what makes Western Civilization, and America specifically, great. PJ describes an encounter with a black salesman in a Cadillac on the top of Hoover Dam in which the latter, after hearing their account of blazing through Arizona and New Mexico, looks at the Ferrari and says, simply, "Goddam, that's BEAUTIFUL!" PJ states, after finally turning over the car to a Hollywood studio "It was a glow that wouldn't fade. And I still felt good when I flipped the keys to the receptionist ...... And in fact I still feel good today." So will you after reading it, it is, in fact, worth the price of the entire book.
For those of you unfamiliar with P.J. O'Rourke, be warned: P.J.'s humor is not for everybody. He is outspokenly politically incorrect, and can be downright insulting to those who disagree with him politically. What I find to be his saving grace on that score is that he doesn't seem to take himself or those who DO agree with him terribly seriously, either. So if you're politically to the left of Spiro Agnew, and easily offended, this book is not for you. But if you're thick-skinned enough to be able to recognize humor even when it's insensitive and coming from someone you disagree with, there truly is a great deal of very funny material here.
If you're only going to read one book by P.J. O'Rourke, this shouldn't be it. It should be "Parliament of Whores", unquestionably his best. But if you've tried that and liked it, you may enjoy this as well.