Looking for trouble
With E]. O’Rourke coming to Scotland to read from his new book, The List publishes an extract in
which he returns to a favourite theme — the absurdity of political correctness. Below, Eddie Gibb
proﬁles the recalcitrant Republican.
olive oil make a tasty breakfast.
It confirms what Sunday supplement editors have known for years — O’Rourke is king ofthe soundbite. P]. on drugs: ‘Cocaine’s really one of society’s most valuable drugs; there’s some really dangerous people destroyed by cocaine — and the sooner the better!’ On religion: ‘Santa Claus is preferable to God in every way but one: there is no such thing as Santa Claus.’ And on sex: well, he’s never said it better than the killer title of his infamous essay on letting the good times roll, ‘How to Drive Fast on Drugs While Getting Your Wing-Wang Squeezed and Not Spill Your
These days. it seems O’Rourke spends most of his leisure time concentrating on not spilling the drink. The drug-taking is a memory. albeit one with Technicolor ﬂashbacks, and a recent profile on The South Bank Show shows he needs specs before he can even contemplate sitting behind the wheel of a high-performance car. But O’Rourke’s love of tall gin and tonics appears undiminished. though he admits the frequent drinking references are part of the character he’s created as a first-person
foil for his humour.
O’Rourke has been firing off barbs of coruscating humour for over twenty years. first as editor of National Lampoon, then freelance at all the American magazines that matter from Vanity Fair to New Republic, before finding a semi-permanent home at Rolling Stone, where he plays foreign affairs chief across from Hunter S. Thompson at the national affairs desk. Neither correspondent puts in what you’d call regular office hours. but in Rolling Stone’s Jann Wenner, O’Rourke has found an editor prepared to countersign some pretty florid expenses claims. In return PJ. and Hunter S. add gonzo credibility to a magazine filled with car ads.
O’Rourke is the Republican it’s OK to read — knowing the enemy has never been so entertaining. His latest collection of joumalism. All the
random rifﬂe through PJ. O’Rourke’s prodigious clippings tile elicits some interesting stuff. The initials stand for Patrick James (or Jake if he’s feeling particularly Oirish); his wife is the daughter of filmmaker Sydney Lumet and for the bachelor on the move, he suggests woodcock breasts lightly fried in
Trouble in the World. is subtitled ‘The Lighter Side of Famine. Pestilence. Destruction and Death’. which throws down a challenge right there. Can you dare. he asks. to find a lighter side in the world’s problems?
For this book he has spent many hours in journalists’ drinking holes in the world‘s major trouble spots: Somalia. Haiti. Bosnia (‘the unpronounceables versus the unspellables’). deforested Amazonian jungle. The basic trouble is politics. he concludes. The accounts of his travels are stylishly written as ever. though with rather fewer laugh-out- loud moments than we’ve been accustomed to. And there are signs that O’Rourke wants to be taken seriously — employing a researcher to dig up books with titles like Famine: Social Crisis and Historical Change isn’t really his style. If the satirist wants us to engage with his arguments rather than his one-liners. who will be the foil for hisjokes‘.’ '_I All the Trouble in the World is published by Picador; priced £14.99.
P../. U 'Rourke will read from his work at an event sponsored by The List, BBC Scotland and ll’aterstone's, on Tuesday [3 December at the BBC Studios, Queen Street. lz‘dinburgh at 7.15pm. Tickets in advance front ll’aterstone's, 83’ George Street. lz’dinbutgh, priced [2 (redeemable
against purchase ofthe book).
EXTRACT FROM: All the Trouble in the World
MULﬂCIlLTURAlISM: Going From Bad to Diverse
ln Fidel Castro we see ugly politics — politics almost as ugly as I‘ve painted them everywhere else in this book. I admit to a grudge. Politics exacerbate the problems of densely populated nations. Politics cause famine. And treating environmental ills with nothing but politics is quackery. However. politics should be useful in matters political. At least you’d think so. And the attempt of women. minorities. old people. and so forth to gain influence in political systems is certainly a political matter.
Can politics help ‘the unempowered’ better than politics help huddled. hungry folk with smog? To find out. I thought I‘d go someplace where there were lots
1 of political ideas. Not Washington. Political schemes.
political deals. political scandals — in these Washington abounds. But ideas? Instead I returned to my alma mater. When I was in college. political ideas
; were all over the place. Of course. most of those ideas
were bad (and the worst were held by me). but that was
twenty-five years ago. Maybe college students have changed. Maybe college is different. Anyway ‘multiculturalism’ is a political idea and one that is commonly espoused on campuses. l was willing o give it a fair — okay. half-fair — hearing.
To this end I found myself steering a rental sedan through a bafﬂement of embowered quadrangles and Georgian brick at Miami University. No. the one in Ohio. MIAMI was A l'NlVliRSl'l‘Y titer-oar: Fromm wAs A STATE read a sweatshirt in the periphery of my
disoriented vision. a sweatshirt worn by . . . gosh, the kids are baggy these days . . . worn by I don‘t know
Have college students changed? For chrissakc. they‘re college students. No. Brief inquiry. They‘re in their teens and twenties. Everything is beer and the self. ﬂuttering genitals. face time. nonplused parents. Of course they haven‘t changed. Their clothes are bigger.
I was lost in a fog of nostalgia. No. l was just lost. I peered through the windshield saying, ‘Why. right there. that‘s where old what's-his-name . . . him and the other guy . . . that’s where they . . . did something or other.’ I’m not much for sentimental memories. Nothing wrong with reminiscing. except I keep
forgetting to do it. If you had a great time someplace. it’s not as though you can go back and get it. If you had a really great time. a warrant is probably still out. And. speaking of warrants. I wasn’t entirely sober. I‘d been to see a couple of old professors, men who were ancient a quarter of a century ago and who now . . . Now they were only somewhat older than I am. however that happened. So we sipped some donnish dry sherry — tumblers of straight scotch actually. I asked them if Miami was different. They didn’t remember. Miami didn’t seem different.
()ld Miami from thy hillcrest.
Thou hast watched the decades roll. While thy sons have quested from thee. Sturdy hearted. pure of soul.
Not that I recalled ever hearing the school song. I went to exactly two university-sponsored events during my undergraduate career — one freshman mixer and :1 Martha and the Vandellas concert. I was reading the lyrics out of the l993—94 Student Handbook. which didn‘t have a campus map. The handbook made a point of mentioning that new verses had been added:
18 The List 2—15 December I994