I re-read this book about once every two years because it so amuses me. It's admitedly a bit out of date now. A lot changes in ten years. For one, it...moreI re-read this book about once every two years because it so amuses me. It's admitedly a bit out of date now. A lot changes in ten years. For one, it was written at the height of the stock market in the late 90's, but nevertheless his reflections remain basically true. (It was fun to read in the chapter on "Good Capitalism: Wall Street" his caveat "An investigation of money might as well begin where lots of money is being made -- for the moment, anyway...")
This is a very funny book, but it's also an excellent layman's introduction to basic economics and basic economic systems. In Eat the Rich, O'Rourke explores the one fundamental question of economics: "Why do some places prosper and thrive while others just suck?" He dismisses many of the typical explanations given for economic prosperity: brains (nope, "In Russia, where chess is a spectator sport, they're boiling stones for soup"); civilization (nope, the Chinese had civilization when O'Rourke's relatives were "hunkering naked in trees"); government (nope, "citizens of totalitarian countries have plenty of government and nothing of anything else" and with "no government at all" everyone's "naked in the trees."). So "why are some places wealthy and some places poor"? To find out, O'Rourke travels to Wall Street, Albania, Sweden, Cuba, Russia, Tanzania, Hong Kong, and Shanghai. His observations are sometimes enlightening and always amusing.
As I'm re-reading it now, I'll note a few of my favorite observations:
"We all know how 'modern democracies take loaves from the wealthy.' It's the slipups in the 'pass them out to the poor' department that inspire a study of Econ."
"We artsy types would have been shocked if anyone had told us (and none had the nerve) that making money was creative. And we would have been truly shocked to learn that a fundamental principle of economics--'Wealth is created when assets are moved from lower- to higher-valued uses'--is the root of all creativity, be it artsy, IBMsy, or whatever."
"[The textbook:] continues: 'Marx was wrong about many things...but that does not diminish his stature as an important economist.' Well, what would? If Marx was wrong about many things AND screwed the baby-sitter?"
"Think of the stock market as an endless Gallup poll with 207 billion things that people can't make up their minds about."
In this collection of essays, O'Rourke recounts his travels to such places as Iraq, Israel, and Egypt. As usual, he writes with a smirk and makes more...moreIn this collection of essays, O'Rourke recounts his travels to such places as Iraq, Israel, and Egypt. As usual, he writes with a smirk and makes more than a few political jabs, but overall, this book is not as funny as most of O'Rourke's works. Probably the most entertaining essay is on the eclectic and often unintentionally ironic Washington, D.C. demonstrations. Overall, however, the book did not deliver the kind of high quality satire I have come to expect from O'Rourke. It was a quick and amusing read, to be sure, but it was one of his lesser books. (less)
Political humorist P.J. O'Rourke was once a knee jerk, card-carrying, pot smoking, hippie liberal. Now he's more of a libertarian, but he re-lives tho...morePolitical humorist P.J. O'Rourke was once a knee jerk, card-carrying, pot smoking, hippie liberal. Now he's more of a libertarian, but he re-lives those former days in this book. Some of the book is a little unpalatable, like all of those (often sexually explicit) excerpts from his fictional writings produced in those liberal days. But some of the book is funny, particularly his commentary on those very writings. The articles selected from numerous automobile magazines, however, grew a little dull for me, even if they are occasionally interspersed with some clever, cutting humor. Overall it's a pretty good work because O'Rourke is a very good writer, but it doesn't hold a candle to his other books, and in that respect, Age and Guile is a disappointment. I will say, however, that his spoof of modern poetry (or what might possibly be his serious past attempts at it) is absolutely hilarious. I especially enjoyed his "poem on nothing at all."
This is certainly not P.J. O'Rourke at his funniest, although it does have flashes of laugh out loud humor. That's because On the Wealth of Nations is...moreThis is certainly not P.J. O'Rourke at his funniest, although it does have flashes of laugh out loud humor. That's because On the Wealth of Nations is an actual introduction to and overview of The Wealth of Nations. It is vastly preferable to reading Adam Smith's tome.(less)
I read this book when I was about 14, after I had read and enjoyed The Caine Mutiny and decided to pick up any books I could find by the same author i...moreI read this book when I was about 14, after I had read and enjoyed The Caine Mutiny and decided to pick up any books I could find by the same author in the used bookstore. This remains my favorite of Herman Wouk's books. It may not be epic in scope, but it is very, very human. It spoke to me on a personal level in the way that only the greatest stories do. I do not know if this tale of young love would affect me as strongly now as a married adult. I think it would, but in a very different way. (less)
I read this book as a young teenager, and I don't remember much about it, except that I thought it was extremely funny and poignant, a superb satire s...moreI read this book as a young teenager, and I don't remember much about it, except that I thought it was extremely funny and poignant, a superb satire skewering not just advertising but the spiritual foibles of mankind. Aurora Dawn mocks a variety of things from psychologists and advertising to those who think of evil as nothing more than "an absence of being where being should be." For the most part, the novel is a parody on novelists. It is extremely enjoyable and filled with subtle humor as well as some not so subtle laughs.(less)
I remember Cat's Cradle being one of my favorite Vonnegut books. It was a very enjoyable read, but Vonnegut sometimes begins to develop an idea or cha...moreI remember Cat's Cradle being one of my favorite Vonnegut books. It was a very enjoyable read, but Vonnegut sometimes begins to develop an idea or character and then abruptly stops, as he did with Dr. Hoeniker's wife, Frank and Newt's childhood, Angela's marriage, and Monna in general. I love his humor, as exemplified in this Bokonist rephrasing of the quote "Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's.": "Pay no attention to Caesar. Caesar doesn't have the slightest idea what's really going on." I read all these as a young teenager, and I'm not sure how much Vonnegut's cynicism would appeal to me today. (less)
**spoiler alert** While I can't fully relate to Fielding sex-crazed heroines, and while I did not care to be inflicted with Fielding's politics, I wou...more**spoiler alert** While I can't fully relate to Fielding sex-crazed heroines, and while I did not care to be inflicted with Fielding's politics, I would not wish to deny that this was an amazingly entertaining read. I must be among the few in that I liked it as much as Bridget Jones. Did this grab me because of its intellectual depth, its profundity, its complexity of language? Certainly not. It grabbed me because it was funny, entertaining...farcical. And that last word is the key-if you don't like farce and you want a "serious" thriller, by all means, skip this! It's widely implausible, as it is meant to be.
(SPOILERS) I actually though it rather more of a twist that Pierre did in fact turn out to be a terrorist, since the reader is expecting he won't and that it will just be some comical mistake of Olivia's. Once that bit is revealed, the plot does become much more predictable and not quite as enjoyable, but I still had no problem plodding on through to the end. I found Olivia's character to be a bit undulating; she seems the Nancy Drew type one second and the Bridget Jones type the next-that is, she seems suddenly to become a very capable agent after being a bit of a silly journalist. Well, she's a bit silly throughout, I suppose. Despite its flaws, I very much enjoyed it. (less)
Imagine if Raymond Chandler melded with Douglas Adams to produce a sci-fi hardball detective mystery replete with literary references, and you'd have...moreImagine if Raymond Chandler melded with Douglas Adams to produce a sci-fi hardball detective mystery replete with literary references, and you'd have something like The Eyre Affair. The book takes place in a strange version of 1980's England, where the Crimean war has been going on for over hundred years, where Baconians knock on your door to try to convert you to their view of Shakespearean authorship, where a special operations squad exists explicitly to investigate literary crimes, and where the Chronoguard has the ability to travel through time. The novel follows the adventures of Thursday Next, a LiteraTech who is caught up in the hunt for arch criminal Acheron Hades, who is determined to abduct and ransom fictional characters, notably Jane Eyre. The book is not at all academic in tone; it reads like a fast, enjoyable work of popular fiction, but you have to be well read to appreciate it. If you are familiar with the English classics you will have a good sense of what is transpiring, and you will be able to pick up on various clues and enjoy the "inside" literary jokes.
The author draws both style and content from a wide variety of popular genre literature. You can find elements of Agatha Christie, Raymond Chandler, Douglas Adams, comic book heroes and villains, Bridget Jones, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and more. Yet the work is far from unoriginal; it is precisely the author's ability to pull off this diverse combination that makes the book so unique, if occasionally a little too clever. This is a great volume for the literature major who is so accustomed to analyzing that he or she has lost the ability to read for pleasure. The Eyre Affair will give you a chance to re-learn that beautiful, lost art. (less)
It is appropriate that Waugh should allude to "The Waste Land," since A Handful of Dust is itself a satirical expose of the moral waste land that is m...moreIt is appropriate that Waugh should allude to "The Waste Land," since A Handful of Dust is itself a satirical expose of the moral waste land that is modern society, a world drifting without the anchor of religion and tradition. But Waugh’s message is communicated both gradually and subtly, and with great wit. He seems always to select the perfect turn of phrase, and he creates extremely amusing and original situations. Take, for instance, the sad case of Tony Last, who, delirious with fever, wanders in the Brazilian jungle, only to be found and nursed back to health by a madman who then forces him (at gunpoint) to read aloud Dickens's novels. It is interesting to speculate what Waugh’s satirical point is here; his novel is often amusing but cryptic. It is, however, the overall effect created by Waugh’s weaving of characters, language, and situations, that matters most. And the effect is magnificent. (less)
Waugh is among the most unique writers of satire in the 20th century. The Loved One is consistently entertaining, satirical, and comical. Waugh's supe...moreWaugh is among the most unique writers of satire in the 20th century. The Loved One is consistently entertaining, satirical, and comical. Waugh's superb command of the English language--his amazing ability to turn a phrase just so--utterly astonishes me. It is fun to watch for the constant poetical quotes Waugh satirically weaves into this tale. The Loved One mocks Hollywood, America, and the English all at once. I can not put into words how unique and clever this book really is; the scenes Waugh conceives, the wording he employs, the characters he creates, even the names he chooses, all work to create an entirely "different" reading experience.
In this diverting comedy of errors, Waugh satirizes African politics, British society, and world journalism. Retired country gentleman William Boot, t...moreIn this diverting comedy of errors, Waugh satirizes African politics, British society, and world journalism. Retired country gentleman William Boot, through a series of misunderstandings, finds himself suddenly bound to Ishmaliea as a foreign correspondent, but he doesn't know quite how to invent the news. Somehow, he manages to bumble his way to journalistic stardom, while falling in love and being played a fool. This short novel is an easy read, and will inspire, if not outright laughter, a number of silent smiles and soft chuckles.(less)
This collection of articles from the infamous humorous newspaper The Onion is often vulgar, coursing with profanity and blatant (often sophomoric) sex...moreThis collection of articles from the infamous humorous newspaper The Onion is often vulgar, coursing with profanity and blatant (often sophomoric) sexual jokes. It also contains a healthy dose of irreverence, the religious mockery being aimed largely at Christians, but with enough openness to include occasionally the Jews. Despite its not infrequent offensiveness, The Onion's articles did often make me laugh. Much of the comic force of the collections comes from the authors' abilities to parody so effectively the style of newswriting found in papers today. But because of this, the humor also grows stale after awhile--the joke is a good one, but by the end of the collection, it has become an old one. Therefore, about half way through, it becomes natural for the reader to enjoy the headlines but merely skim the articles.
Here's a smattering of some of the headlines that struck me as the funniest: "Oprah Viewers Patiently Awaiting Instructions"; "Fanzine Marred by Typo"; "Pope Calls For Greater Understanding Between Catholics, Hellbound"; and "Fun Toy Banned Because of Three Stupid Dead Kids." Probably the funniest article was on the sinister phase two of Starbucks's operation, but the one I could most relate to was entitled: "Aging Gen-Xer Doesn't Find Bad Movies Funny Anymore." Also included are a collection of point counterpoint editorials, which forcefully mock the whole concept of the editorial. The best is the point-counterpoint on Nigeria: "Nigeria May Be A Developing Nation, But It Is Rich In Cultural Resources" vs. "Get Me Out Of This Godforsaken Hellhole." It's easy and entertaining to pass the time with The Onion, but perhaps not very fruitful.