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Holidays in Hell

3.94 of 5 stars 3.94  ·  rating details  ·  2,112 ratings  ·  97 reviews
P.J. O'Rourke travels to hellholes around the globe in Holidays in Hell, looking for trouble, the truth, and a good time. After casually sight-seeing in war-torn Lebanon and being pepper-gassed in Korea, P.J. checks out the night life in communist Poland and spends Christmas vacation in El Salvador. Taking a long look at Nicaragua, P.J. asks, "Is Nicaragua a Bulgaria with ...more
Unknown Binding, 288 pages
Published December 17th 1998 by MacMillan (first published 1988)
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Back in the mid to late '80s when PJ O'Rourke wrote the pieces that make up Holidays in Hell, the world was a much different place: there was war in the Middle East, the threat of nuclear conflict, sectarian violence...alright, so things haven't changed all that much. Which is one reason why, after twenty years, this collection of reportage pieces from Lebanon, Nicaragua, Palestine, Northern Ireland and other conflict hot spots remains worth reading. Another is O'Rourke's gonzo-style, no-sacred- ...more
Contains one of the best paragraphs in all the English language... starting with ...."I snapped...."
I'm not sure why I didn't like this book more. It was vividly and humorously written, educational and even important. I think it was just the page after page of diverse suffering and injustice, presented by an author whose considered opinion appears to be that there is no hope for the Third World and so we might as well laugh at it. (Tangentially, I suggest that easily offended readers skip the prologue, which contains a large number of barely-joking generalizations that even in the context of a ...more
My good friend Amy is an honors student in journalism. She’s about to start her Senior Year as editor-in-chief of her college newspaper.

Anyway, something she mentioned in a recent blog post was that she’d left for college, certain that her dream was to blast through her four years, then become a foreign correspondent, traveling the world and filing stories from exotic trouble-spots.

My mind flashed back on P.J. O’Rourke’s “Holidays in Hell,” a book that bridges a gap between where Amy is in her
've had this book around for a while and have read it in bits and pieces, as it is written in a format that easily allows for that. It's been my bath book, my waiting in lines book, my doctor's office book. I've enjoyed it emmensely. I was a subscriber to Rolling Stone magazine for quite some time and always enjoyed reading O'Rourke's articles, so I had no doubt that I would appriciate a collection of them. (I was correct in that assumption.) I've also lately realized how little I know about his ...more
Sep 09, 2007 Earle rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone with a well-developed sense of humor and a taste for the offbeat
If O'Rourke's quirky brand of humor resonates with you, this is as good as it gets. I've read most of his works, and this is my favorite.

O'Rourke was a foreign correspondent for 'Rolling Stone', and was sent to every god-forsaken hellhole in the world. It is from his experiences in these venues that the chapters are drawn.

The chapter on Lebanon begins ...... "Beirut, at a glance, lacks charm." If that doesn't strike you as pure writing genius, then you probably won't enjoy this book (or other of
David H.
I don't consider myself a conservative, but I found out about P.J. O'Rourke during my college years (1980-1984, go Rockhurst!!!). O'Rourke shares tales of his world travels. Check out the one on South Korea, or the one on Poland. What a scream. I still read it sometimes, just for hearty laughs and a shot of great writing. I even got to meet him at a book signing. Great guy.
My introduction to P.J. O'Rourke.I will always love this book. It made me laugh like no other book had managed and it planted the first seeds of anti-Socialism in my mind. It also made me realise that being un-PC is the way to go. It's okay to laugh at other countries and cultures if they're absolutely mad. Thanks P.J.
Wow, I'm the first to add this book? I should get some kind something for that!! This book is classic PJ O'Rourke. Vacationing in Beriut and Lebanon might not be for everyone, but you too can experience it through his writings!!
Raegan Butcher
Hilarious dispatches from some of the world's worst places. This guy is so funny I laugh out loud at his stuff when i'm reading it. No wonder he is (apparently, according to wkipedia) the world's most quoted author! Funny stuff!
Hilarious. Some of the best writing I've read recently. Would've given it five stars if the last chapter (his vision of 2013) wasn't so slipshod.
Andrew Oliver
This is a classic. While PJ O'Rourke may now be described as "libertarian humorist" this book is not political but more of a realistic Lampoons vacation to real places as history was happening in the time period (it was written in the 80s). The end where he goes to Jim and Tammy Faye Baker's theme park has stuck with me. Ironically, I still remember the mean-spirited but funny line that is something like "I figure if god wanted us to go to church all the time he'd have given us smaller heads and ...more
The guy's a jackass, but he can write.
Stuart Gilkison
O'Rourkes best book by far.
Entertaining and acerbicly written, as one might expect. It's also interesting from an historical perspective these days. More depressing is while many of the conflicts and situations described have changed considerably (particularly Beirut and South Africa) similar turmoil has erupted elsewhere. Like the old adage, "the more things change, the more they stay the same". One exception is the section about Warsaw, which anyone visiting modern Poland should read. I visited Prague when it was still ...more
Jul 24, 2011 Lili rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Lili by: Dad
Shelves: from-the-library
I enjoyed my second time through this book more than the first because it rings so true to some of my adventures in "trouble tourism.". There are just so many laugh out loud gems that I can't even begin to list all of them. For example, the phrase "covering a story from Mahogany Ridge," which means working on it in a bar. Of course, my hands down favorite is the ending of the Europe (April to May 1986) essay explaining why the USA has never been invaded. Find it in a library and read that page. ...more
Peter rock
Sep 30, 2008 Peter rock rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: my freinds at face book and my space and rebecca
Recommended to Peter rock by: my father vince
this is a very good book i was always disapointed that P J O'rourke did not focus on dangerous hot spots in america go to save it to favorites and call me in the morning because i am in love with you earth. People of earth what the fuck ya all upset with each other for in groups where it gets messy for those of us that are not upset at all. p j o'rourke one of my fathers required reading projects. Hey my close personal Friends want to know all the books my large highly lethal family ...more
Risking life and limb in such Hellish zones as 1980s Lebanon, El Salvador, and Harvard University, O’Rourke looks “for a good time” amidst the chaos according to the rear cover description… just above the Nixon quote…trippy… While reading this, I assumed he was a journalist that had attempted the objective route during the sundry riots, protests, and Vietnams dotting the sixties and finally said “F**k it! This is all bullsh*t that perpetually repeats itself!” and moved on to a, if you will, more ...more
Our politics may differ wildly, but I owe P.J. O'Rourke a very great debt. I read Holidays in Hell for the first time when I was thirteen, and it gave me two things which last to this day: A desire to travel to strange and terrible places, and the urgent need to lampoon what I find there

His account of Beirut and the Lebanon in-between and during various wars takes up about a third of the book, and is at times the most stupefyingly anger-inducing and bollock-tinglingly funny piece of extended wri
Chris Steeden
I am sure there are many opinions on P.J O'Rourke so I am not going to go into that in this review.
The book is a series of articles mainly from Rolling Stone magazine of O'Rourke's travels both in the US and to foreign countries. Everyone gets a lashing from his acid tongue and I did find it funny even though I did not agree with everything he wrote. It is very interesting going back to the 80's and reading about the countries in crisis at that point.

If you want a quick read round war-torn coun
Haven't read anything this caustic, and funny, for i don't know how long. The author, a libertarian, is upset with the mess that the world is in (the book was published in 1988, but don't worry, it's, give or take a Soviet Union, the same mess) and goes off where the trouble is so that, you know, we don't have to. It's been called 'anti-travel.'
There's absolutely nothing politically correct in his stories, and liberals will hurt the most, but don't be put off by what I say. I could very well be
It was ok. A bit dated (set in 1980's, some interesting points/facts

Also author was really quite racist.

I wouldn't recommend this. I picked it up in a charity shop and should have saved my £1.50 to be honest.

I didn't bother finishing it (I got to the last 3 chapters, so gave it a good go)

How has this racist man got so many good reviews?

I was repeatedly shocked by his racist, ill informed and arrogant (American (white)-centric)comments.

One Flew
This is the only travel book i've ever liked. What I love about PJ is the fact that he has absolutely no illusions about the way the world works. Most left wingers tend to believe that all of the worlds problems can be solved and that the rich are to blame for it all. If you're looking for a genuine, insightful and funny book about how messed up the world is, then this is the book for you. PJ is completely remorseless about his views and doesn't try and offer any well meaning advice about how to ...more
Political and satirical tourism. The first piece, on Lebanon, is a real stinker, so skip it. The rest are great, if a bit dated: Bianca was Mick Jagger's wife? Danny Ortega was once un-elected in Nicaragua? No matter--if you're a fan of Hunter S. Thompson gonzo journalism, look here.
I'm too young to understand the exact context except that O'Rourke enjoys throwing himself into the thick of violence and then make jokes to cut the tension, making us all sick. Humor is necessary to come to terms with the crap he sees. So why do we allow this?
Leslie Zunker
Brilliant. Hilarious. Sad. Poignant. True. Irreverent. And brilliant again. Journalists are a crazy bunch, and O'Rourke is at the head of that class. Originally these were articles he wrote for Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair and other magazines. I read the article "Terror If The Euro-Weenies" (a slightly censored version of it - occasionally the language can be a little rough), published in Rolling Stone in the fall of 1986, to my class the last day before Thanksgiving break. I could barely get thro ...more
Michael Rodgers-wilson
Hilarious take on serious subjects. Really exposes the profound stupidity of mankind. Entertaining and thought provoking. at the same time.
One of my faves from Mr O'Rourke.
You know you shouldn't laugh but hell...
I read this! It was very funny!
Good shit, though perhaps some of it's a little dated now, having been written in the late 80s. The entry on Fremantle, WA as a part of 'Hell' is particularly interesting for us southern colonial folk I think. Good to see Australia has a town as awful as any in Israel, Northern Island, or Lebanon, though I had a great time in Fremantle myself, and would have chosen Adelaide or Brisbane as far more hellish, but hey, who's the famous right-wing gonzo boy here? Not me, that's for sure.
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P. J. O’Rourke was born and raised in Toledo, Ohio, and attended Miami University and Johns Hopkins. He began writing funny things in 1960s “underground” newspapers, became editor-in-chief of National Lampoon, then spent 20 years reporting for Rolling Stone and The Atlantic Monthly as the world’s only trouble-spot humorist, going to wars, riots, rebellions, and other “Holidays in Hell” in more tha ...more
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“I was having dinner…in London…when eventually he got, as the Europeans always do, to the part about “Your country’s never been invaded.” And so I said, “Let me tell you who those bad guys are. They’re us. WE BE BAD. We’re the baddest-assed sons of bitches that ever jogged in Reeboks. We’re three-quarters grizzly bear and two-thirds car wreck and descended from a stock market crash on our mother’s side. You take your Germany, France, and Spain, roll them all together and it wouldn’t give us room to park our cars. We’re the big boys, Jack, the original, giant, economy-sized, new and improved butt kickers of all time. When we snort coke in Houston, people lose their hats in Cap d’Antibes. And we’ve got an American Express card credit limit higher than your piss-ant metric numbers go. You say our country’s never been invaded? You’re right, little buddy. Because I’d like to see the needle-dicked foreigners who’d have the guts to try. We drink napalm to get our hearts started in the morning. A rape and a mugging is our way of saying 'Cheerio.' Hell can’t hold our sock-hops.
We walk taller, talk louder, spit further, fuck longer and buy more things than you know the names of. I’d rather be a junkie in a New York City jail than king, queen, and jack of all Europeans. We eat little countries like this for breakfast and shit them out before lunch.”
“It’s important to understand that in the Third World most driving is done with the horn, or “Egyptian Brake Pedal,” as it is known. There is a precise and complicated etiquette of horn use. Honk your horn only under the following circumstances:

1. When anything blocks the road
2. When anything doesn’t.
3. When anything might.
4. At red lights
5. At green lights.
6. At all other times.”
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