Holidays in Heck

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Press: Brilliance Audio; MP3 Una edition (November 1, 2011)
Author Name:O'Rourke, P. J.; Miller, Dan John;


O’Rourke is one of his generation’s most celebrated political humorists, hailed as “the funniest writer in America” by both Time and The Wall Street Journal.
Twenty-three years ago, he published the classic travelogue Holidays in Hell, in which he trotted the globe as a “trouble tourist,” a chaos rubberneck, sight-seeing at wars, rebellions, riots, political crises, and other monuments of human folly.
After the Iraq War ― “too old to keep being scared stiff and too stiff to keep sleeping on the ground” ― he retired from what foreign correspondents call “being a s**thole specialist.” But he couldn’t give up traveling to ridiculous places, often with his wife and three young children in tow.
Usually he was left wishing he were under artillery fire again.
O’Rourke’s journeys take him to locales both near (and nearly bizarre) and far (and far from normal).
Having made a joke that Ski magazine takes seriously, he winds up on a family ski vacation ― to Ohio.
The highest point of elevation is the six-foot ski instructor his wife thinks is cute.
Convinced by an old friend and one too many drinks that “a horse trek is just backpacking on someone else’s back,” he finds himself (barely) in the saddle, crossing the mountains to a part of Kyrgyzstan so remote that the Kyrgyzs have never seen it.
He visits Kabul for the food and conversation (excellent lamb chops and a droll after dinner story about the mullah and the cow).
He even takes his kids to his erstwhile home away from home, the bar at the Foreign Correspondents Club in Hong Kong.
Holidays in Heck shows P.
O’Rourke in top form ― a little older, a little wiser, going to the bathroom a little more often, but just as darkly funny as he was in Holidays in Hell.
Here is a hilarious and often moving portrait of life in the fast lane, as he’s always lived it ― only this time with the backseat driver that marriage entails and three small hostages to fortune strapped into the booster seats.

About the Author

O’Rourke is the author of twelve books, including Parliament of Whores and Give War a Chance, both of which were #1 New York Times best sellers.
His most recent book is the best seller On the Wealth of Nations.


Humor & Entertainment,Humor,Political,Essays,Literature & Fiction,United States,Humor

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Comment List (Total:15)

  •     O'Rourke bring his wit and ssarcasm to the general trend of having children later in life. The collection of almost 20 essays, spanning almost a decade, is a great demonstration...
  •     As a liberal atheist, PJ is my favorite God-fearing conservative. I acquired a taste for his provocative, thoughtful, sometimes demented writings in college. But unless you find PJ's kids to be as enthralling as PJ obviously does, then you are going to find much of the book downright irritating since much of it is given over to these tots. There was also quite a lot on china but PJ mostly just reports what he's told by the Chinese he encounters - without adding his own observations or drawing any conclusions. What does PJ think about the future of China? You won't find out here. This was a disappointment since the locations that are "heck-like" (China, India, Brazil) are actually much more important IMO than the ones that are hellish (Somalia, Afghanistan, North Korea) and I would much rather hear his assessment of the former than the latter. The best essay in the bunch doesn't seem to fit his theme as it is about PJ's (successful) bout with anal cancer. It was thoughtful and even kind of funny. Potential buyers should be aware that this book is quite different from the usual O'Rourke.
  •     Funny, but not PJ's best
  •     I came across this book while traveling and thought I'd give it a shot. I made it about a chapter in before I gave up. Shallow writing and unfunny jokes abound.
  •     PJ put in no effort in this collection of tired wise guy observations that is just boring. A surprise, for sure.
  •     I was extremely disappointed with this book. I expected at least some laughs once in a while but the stories couldn't even get a chuckle out of me. This is my first P.
  •     The always brilliant O'Rourke only goes over the top in the Galapagos. Very entertaining, and a caution for having children in your fifties.
  •     A waste of time and money
  •     Back in the late 80's PJ wrote Parliament of Whores, one of the best and funniest books on politics I have ever had the pleasure of reading. He followed that up in 2010 with Don't Vote! it just encourages the bastards, largely a rewrite of Parliament of Whores, which was funny enough but not as good as its predecessor. Also in the late 80's, PJ wrote Holidays in Hell, one of the best and funniest books on world politics I have ever had the pleasure of reading. Then in 2011 he wrote Holidays in Heck as a ... well, not a sequel, not a rewrite, and not nearly as good as its predecessor. At this rate, if PJ rewrites his Bachelor Home Companion as "The Married Man's Home Companion" in 2012, I may just shed a tear, and not necessarily one of joy.The young(ish) PJ was full of sound and fury, which in many cases did in fact signify nothing, but in other cases most definitely did not. The more mature PJ can still turn a great phrase, but only one at a time, not a whole string of pointed hilarity leading up to a devastating remark. While Holidays in Hell was the furthest thing from a travel memoir, Heck is pretty much that, just for grumpy old men (of which I am, or will shortly become, one).This later PJ is still funny (in places), informative, and enjoyable enough. But dammit, I don't read PJ because he is "enjoyable enough".Look, its alright, its not great, and as far as it goes, good enough. If you like PJ, it's worth a read. If you haven't read PJ O'Rourke before, don't start here: go get Republican Party Reptile, or Parliament of Whores, or Holidays in Hell, and read on from there. With a little luck you'll make it to this soon enough.
  •     Funny - A PJ always is. He is America's right-wing humourist. Bill Bryson is his left-wing counterpart
  •     It was a mildly interesting book, but too repetitive and not enough "ADVENTURE" narrative -the stories are bland and the characters are one dimensional.
  •     There are those who say that P.J. O'Rourke isn't the writer he used to be: that he's turned into a flabby, lazy caricature of himself, soured on too much whiskey, too much life, and too much time spent in the company of the grumpy fringe (right-wing division). In fact, I'm one of those people; I was deeply disappointed by his last two books,Don't Vote -- It Just Encourages the BastardsandDriving Like Crazy, though the former, being almost entirely reheated second-tier laugh lines from Rush Limbaugh, was notably worse than the latter, which both reprinted some work from O'Rourke's younger days and gave him scope to write about something other than how much he hates liberals.HOLIDAYS IN HECK, though, somewhat restores my faith in O'Rourke: it's a collection of magazine pieces from the past decade, organized chronologically and unified by the fact that nearly every single one of them sees him go somewhere to do something. (The title clearly nods strongly towards O'Rourke's classic collection HOLIDAYS IN HELL, though, back in those days, he was a war correspondent, and so every single place he went was a hell-hole. The choices are much nicer and cushier this time around, befitting a man pushing sixty and dragging a substantially younger wife and three small children behind him.)Perhaps, like my father-in-law -- and like a million other fathers-in-law across this fine nation of ours -- O'Rourke has become one of those men with whom one must never discuss politics. There are a number of references to how Republican O'Rourke is -- making me miss the days when he was proudly a Republican but simultaneously one that one suspected every other Republican in the nation would be slowly backing away from -- but it mostly stays at that level; O'Rourke doesn't engage in sustained political complaining for more than a couple of pages at a time, and those can be skimmed or ignored.(Parenthetically, I really wish there was some way to get back the O'Rourke of the '70s and '80s, because that guy would have loved Ron Paul, and sending young O'Rourke on tour with Paul would have resulted in some incredibly awesome writing.)So this book sees O'Rourke go to Hong Kong for a speech -- and drag the family along behind him -- and go to Ohio for the skiing -- and drag the family along behind him -- and go to museums in Chicago, monuments in Washington, DC, and Disneyland with that family still in tow. There's also a long solo trip to China and another fascinating trip alone to Kyrgyzstan (of all places!), both of which make me wish we could pack O'Rourke off to as many of the odder corners of the world as possible (extra points if they're currently or formerly Communist) and let him report back -- he's still as smart and incisive as ever when confronted with people and politics that he doesn't think he already knows all about.It's not all good, of course: there's also a frankly embarrassing pure endorsement of John McCain, occasioned by a visit to an aircraft carrier and indicating that even O'Rourke can be turned into a chickenhawk by the power of generic Republican pro-war sentimentality. And he does lean on blandly stereotypical characterizations of his family -- his wife is a gun-toting grizzly bear! his daughters are shopping fiends! his young son is too small to be interesting yet! -- rather than actually letting them be real characters in his stories.But we expect that -- no matter what territory is supposedly being explored, a P.J. O'Rourke book is always about one particular place: the land inside O'Rourke's skull, where nothing else is as important as he is, and his least defined preference is a mandate from on high. And when he's on -- let me quote my favorite line in the book, from a piece on stag hunting in England, "The British manner of cheerfully not complaining can't be maintained when there's nothing to cheerfully not complain about" -- he's as cutting and precise as anyone in the world.HOLIDAYS IN HECK is no HOLIDAYS IN HELL; that book had the virtue of witnessing a unique sequence of moments in history, as the Cold War world collapsed and less-expected things took its place. But it's a strong return to O'Rourke's better form after a decade or more spent saying things that any generic Republican attack dog could have. I certainly don't want O'Rourke to start enjoying things, or looking kindly upon any government, anywhere, but I do want him to complain about things from his point of view, and not that of the bland midwestern Catholic that he could have been if he hadn't run away from that world forty years ago. And HOLIDAYS IN HECK sees him doing that more regularly than he has for a long time.
  •     If you follow PJ in the Weekly Standard, you will recognize many of the chapters in this collection. Agree with him or no (I usually do), his prose style remains some of the snappiest and most entertaining around.Not really a sequel to his "Holidays in Hell" -- more like Dave Barry Does Japan with more politics and fewer boogers.
  •     Any parent who has traveled with children will find something familiar in P.J. O'Rourke's new essay collection, Holidays in Heck. There are a dozen or so finely written pages here. Out of almost three hundred, you have to decide if it's worth the effort to find them. I found his writing mostly droll, and too often, tiresome. Perhaps because I think he's an excellent writer, I expected more from this collection. I felt like he pounded these pieces out without much care, and a few of the best nuggets stand out.Rating: Two-star (Mildly Recommended)
  •     Classic P.J.

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