Satirist and journalist P.J. O’Rourke, regarded “one of the major voices of his generation”, has died. He was, unusually for a scurrilous wit, right wing but with no compunction about causing offence even to his own side, as he sought out political irony, absurdity and hypocrisy. He was a Republican who mocked Republicans. “The Republicans are the party that says government doesn’t work,” he wrote, “and then they get elected and prove it.”
Like many with an acerbic turn of mind, he had a difficult, high-tension, frustrated and angry chart. He was born 14 November 1947 in Toledo, Ohio, sadly with no birth time, into what he described as “a family so normal as to be almost a statistical anomaly”, with a housewife mother and car salesman father. He joked that he was the eldest of 2.5 children since “my sisters are identical twins and no one noticed they had separate identities until they married different men”.
His Scorpio Sun was in a heavy-duty square to Mars, Saturn and Pluto in attention-seeking Leo. However normal he thought his childhood, he must have felt singled out for mistreatment by life if not by his father. His Mercury was also in Scorpio, a sign renowned for its ability to cut through to the core. What lifted him out of the glooms and gave him a comedians’ quirky take were three planets in Sagittarius – Jupiter, Venus and his Moon.
There was no situation so bleak he couldn’t find the humour. His best book was reputed to be Holidays From Hell, written from war zones.
“Wherever there’s injustice, oppression and suffering, America will show up six months late and bomb the country next to where it’s happening.”
Though his Parliament of Whores about US politics also became a favourite. “Although this is a conservative book,” O’Rourke explained in the opening pages, “it is not informed by any very elaborate political theory. I have only one firm belief about the American political system, and that is this: God is a Republican and Santa Claus is a Democrat.”
He wrote for National Lampoon and Rolling Stone and latterly for more serious outlets – and always with a knack for a devastating one-liner. He described Rush Limbaugh’s echo-chamber fans as “ditto heads.”
In his 2016 book of election coverage How the Hell Did This Happen? he endorsed Hillary Clinton, despite the fact that he thought “she’s wrong about absolutely everything, but she’s wrong within normal parameters”. He thought Trump was unstable.
Some of his other bon mots.
On Europe: “I’ve had it with these dopey little countries and all their poky borders. You can’t swing a cat without sending it through customs.”
In his 1983 book Modern Manners, he argued that traditionalists should encourage the young to do drugs because drugs had “taught an entire generation of English kids the metric system”.
“Every kitchen should be equipped with a dishwasher, preferably a cute one wearing her apron and nothing else”.
“In general, life is better than it ever has been, and if you think that, in the past, there was some golden age of pleasure and plenty to which you would, if you were able, transport yourself, let me say one single word: ‘dentistry’.”
On a more serious note in 1988 he wrote:- “We are fools when we fail to defend civilisation. So-called Western civilisation, as practised in half of Europe, some of Asia and a few parts of North America, is better than anything else available. Western civilisation not only provides a bit of life, a pinch of liberty and the occasional pursuance of happiness, it’s also the only thing that’s ever tried to. Our civilisation is the first in history to show even the slightest concern for average, undistinguished, none-too-commendable people like us.”
He will be missed.