Saturday, December 29, 2007

Reading P.J. O'Rourke Review Brings Guffaws Instead of Sleep

"Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys."
--P.J. O'Rourke

Thinking back to my days in high school, when I couldn't get my eager, teen-aged hands on my girlfriend, the next best thing was the latest copy of National Lampoon.

What wasn't to like? Fart jokes interwoven into Tennyson, half-naked babes just for the fun of it and P.J. O'Rourke were a 17-year-old's garden of earthy delights.

These were the thoughts that came, unbidden, when sleep stubbornly wouldn't and it was decided that pounding on a keyboard might be the best remedy. So I decided to review a review: P.J. O'Rourke's latest offering in the Weekly Standard, "Dear Diary, I think I'm in Love".

P.J.'s (after all these years, I feel like I should be on a first-initial basis with him) is probably the absolute worst read I could have chosen: it's difficult for the Sandman to work his magic while convulsed with laughter.

P.J.'s task: to review Journals 1952-2000 by Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. He starts his review by using an old writing trick: draw the reader in by leaving him wondering how you feel.

"This is a bad, vain, dull, repulsive book. Don't read it. I didn't."

It only got worse--sleep-wise--from there.

Skewering Schlesinger's observations isn't the hardest task in the world, so O'Rourke treats the book like a sparring dummy.

First he jabs.
You see there was this fellow, Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., who died early this year and is on his way to being forgotten but who, unfortunately, isn't quite there yet.

Then he bludgeons.
Naturally we cannot expect a man with credentials such as Arthur's to be merely a jerk; he's an idiot, too. The quickest riffle through Journals is enough to prove it. Said Arthur, after a 10-day visit to the USSR in 1982: "I fear that those who think the Soviet Union is on the verge of economic and social collapse are kidding themselves." It just so happens that I was in the USSR myself for about 10 days in 1982. I was an ignorant, neophyte foreign correspondent on my first overseas assignment. But I did notice that the Soviet Union was on the verge of economic and social collapse.

He performs other feats of mayhem on poor Schelinger's Journals before putting it out of its misery.

Hopefully, the publisher, Penguin, will have other reviews lined up or their product will likely end up at the dollar store as substitute door stops--to use an old Lampoon-ism.

The quote at the beginning of this post is one of my favorites from P.J. O'Rourke. It comes from his excellent civics text, Parliament of Whores. I was so impressed by it the first time I saw it, I bought two copies of the book: just in case one was stolen by a pissed-off politician.

I'm no nearer to sleep than when I started this; in fact, it's probably further away than ever. However, I did get to read a little P.J. O'Rourke and now, since I blog, I am able to render a judgment.

Don't buy the Schlesinger book.

Save yourself money: get a copy of the latest Weekly Standard containing the review and spend the rest on a bottle of your favorite drink and a good C.D.

I'm sure P.J. would approve.

by Mondoreb
* Dear Diary, I Think I'm in Love

Don't believe me? Check out "Schlesinger Journals: Autistic Solipsistic Narcissism" by DaveinBoca for a concurring view.


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