I was browsing in a Barnes & Noble superstore back in the mid-90s one day, when I happened to come across a book entitled All the Trouble in the World: The Lighter Side of Overpopulation, Famine, Ecological Disaster, Ethnic Hatred, Plague, and Poverty
The author of the book was P.J. O’Rourke.
I was only vaguely aware of O’Rourke at that time. I knew that he was a political commentator. But a different kind of political commentator: O’Rourke brought humor to controversial issues that made most everyone else mad.
That was his reputation, anyway. So I decided to give the above title a try.
Suffice it to say that All the Trouble in the World not only kept my attention, it also made me laugh out loud. I was instantly hooked, and I have been a fan of O’Rourke’s ever since.
The mid-1990s were more laid-back, less angry times. The culture wars were already flaring up here and there; but mostly they were on a low simmer.
I immediately recognized O’Rourke as a man who saw things as I did. He was a conservative-leaning moderate, who had no patience for pointy-headed double-talk, and the histrionics of what is now called “wokeness”.
But at the same time, PJ O’Rourke was not mean-spirited. He sought to point out the flaws in the philosophy that had already come to be known as the New Left. Having flirted with the New Left himself in his college days, O’Rourke knew firsthand that political leftism is an intellectual disorder, but not an incurable one. He also realized that persuasion and humor could win a lot more hearts and minds than shrill denunciations.
In more recent years, O’Rourke has been somewhat mismatched to the times: a genuinely funny man in an age that has lost its sense of humor. Nevertheless, he maintained a following… myself included.
I found out today that PJ O’Rourke has passed away at the age of 74. He was apparently suffering from some serious lung-related issues.
While by no means a young man, his output had continued at more or less the pace of a book a year. I had looked forward to reading the essays and collections that he had yet to write.
This is one literary figure whom I will sorely miss. PJ O’Rourke, age 74, RIP.