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Driving Like Crazy: Thirty Years of Vehicular Hellbending, Celebrating America the Way It's Supposed to Be--With an Oil Well in Every Backby P J Orourke
Synopses & Reviews
"Humorist O'Rourke shifts gears, covering and combining past pieces on cars (for Automobile, Car and Driver, Esquire and Forbes) with new material to set this auto anthology in motion. Much has been reworked 'because the writing — how to put this gently to myself — sucked.' Starting with car journalism language ('Drop the bottle and grab the throttle'), he steers the reader toward California cars: 'Many automobiles were purchased to attract members of L.A.'s eight or ten opposite sexes.' He writes about a variety of vehicles, from off-road racers to Philippine jeepneys ('a Willys cut in half and lengthened'). Accelerating the humor, he updates his 1979 account of a 700-mile weekend trip through Michigan and Indiana: 'I can imagine what the farm girls and small town teen angels who looked so longingly at the Harley-Davidson FXE-80 Super Glide would have thought if I had been riding a Segway: 'dork.'' His early essay 'How to Drive Fast on Drugs While Getting Your Wing-wang Squeezed and Not Spill Your Drink' is followed by wild road trips, NASCAR nights and selecting 'a new grocery hauler, parent trap, Keds sled, family bus.' Never in neutral, O'Rourke offers laughter on wheels. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
P.J. O'Rourke opens this "collection of car journalism from 1977 to the present, a sort of social history with all the social science crap left out," with a hilarious piece that is making at least its third appearance in print: first, three decades ago, in National Lampoon; then, a decade later, in his book "Republican Party Reptile"; and now in "Driving Like Crazy." Tongue firmly in cheek (where it... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) remains throughout much of this volume), O'Rourke calls it "an instructional tract," as its title makes abundantly clear: "How to Drive Fast on Drugs While Getting Your Wing-Wang Squeezed and Not Spill Your Drink." Here's how it begins: "When it comes to taking chances, some people like to play poker or shoot dice; other people prefer to parachute jump, go rhino hunting, or climb ice floes, while still others engage in crime or marriage. But I like to get drunk and drive like a fool. Name me, if you can, a better feeling than the one you get when you're half a bottle of Chevis in the bag with a gram of coke up your nose and a teenage lovely pulling off her tube top in the next seat over while you're going a hundred miles an hour down a suburban side street. You'd have to watch the entire Iranian air force crash-land in a liquid petroleum gas storage facility to match this kind of thrill. If you ever have much more fun than that, you'll die of pure sensory overload, I'm here to tell you." That certainly should raise the hackles of those whom O'Rourke calls "the Fun-Suckers," people who "go around saying how unsafe this fun thing is and how unhealthy that fun thing is and how unfair, unjust, uncaring, insensitive, divisive, contagious, and fattening every thing that's fun is," but on the other hand it's likely to be music to the ears of anyone who once enjoyed a fling of irresponsible youth, even if only in the imagination. The piece was written when O'Rourke was "a twerp of thirty-one," and as for the girl in the tube top, "she didn't exist." Or, more accurately: "I mean, she existed. I saw her every day on the summer streets of New York. But she didn't see me. I was dweeby, Brooks Brothers-clad, and invisible to her ilk." Welcome, in other words, to P.J. Land, where the line between truth and fiction is as invisible as the author himself was to that teenaged vision, and as impossible to pin down. When O'Rourke is on his game, he's as funny a writer as we have now, and even though many of the tales with which he regales us are certifiable stretchers, what matters is that they're funny, not whether they're true. If they really were true, O'Rourke would have been dead at least a quarter-century ago, yet here he is now, at the astonishing age of 62, purring along a lot more smoothly than those Buicks of yore about which he writes with more or less equal measures of affection and exasperation, being "a Buick brat, born that way, no choice in the matter since my dad sold them for a living." In these dozen-and-a-half pieces about cars, as in just about everything else he's written, O'Rourke is an unabashed America Firster: not in the pre-World War II isolationist sense, but in his belief that the Golden Age of the American car, from the end of the war until the early 1960s, was also the high moment of world automotive history. For that matter, he believes that just about everything American is better than just about anything else, with at least two apparent exceptions: the 1990 Porsche 911 that he drives and "my wife's car — a 1989 3-series BMW convertible that's as taut and firm as my wife." He looks back fondly on "the fervor of automotive brand loyalty" that raged when he was a boy and reflects sadly on today's deprived youth: "I am trying to imagine how I could explain, to someone born in 1999, the fine shade of difference between owning an Oldsmobile and owning a Buick." Not to mention owning a Pontiac, which is what my parents were driving when I got my license in 1954, and which I soon parked in a tree trunk. Speaking of all things American, not to mention All American, O'Rourke is very high on American schlock. Not for him "the beaten track of beauty, intellect, and bon ton"; instead he goes for "Piggly-Wiggly stores, Taco Bells, 7-Elevens, Col. Sanders Kentucky Fried Chicken outlets, and the various important architectural periods of gas stations: early enameled steel Bauhaus, classic 'free-drinking glass' International style, and self-serve postmodern." As he says: "This is America, and that's freedom for you — freedom to make everything look like (expletive) perhaps, but freedom nonetheless. Are we going to bulldoze every Kmart and create a federal agency to design something in its place? That was how East Berlin became the charming place it was. Dairy Queens, water slides, flea markets, Cinema 1 2 3 4 5 6s, they are our family. They may be ugly and embarrassing, but we wouldn't be here without them. And that's why Americans just love this stuff." Well, maybe so and maybe not. I'm as disinclined to read Deep Meaning into the architecture of the strip mall as O'Rourke himself is disinclined to read it into cars. O'Rourke is a self-described "car nut," but he's not into car deconstruction or car theory. "It would be a violation of car nut logic to talk about what cars mean," he writes, and adds with perfect common sense: "They mean I don't have to walk home." And: "The car is a cultural marker within a patriarchal construct. The car must be understood to embody both a socio-economic text and a political metatext. And if you believe that, somebody should back over you with a car." Perhaps that could be accomplished in the O'Rourke garage, where apparently there are enough vehicles to form a NASCAR team. The once-rebellious youth is now a father of three, and his automotive expectations have changed accordingly. "What Americans with children want," he now knows, "is something that can be run through the car wash with the windows open (and maybe with the urchins left inside). ... What a family needs in a brat buggy is a thing that has voluminous interior space and modest exterior dimensions, that's car-like when a car's required and truckish when there's trucking to be done, that's good on slippery surfaces (including the garage floor with upchuck and fanny rash cream on it), and that doesn't cost as much as the majority interest in Procter & Gamble, manufacturer of Pampers, that I seem to have bought." Oh how the mighty have fallen. No more treks for O'Rourke through Baja California, India, the Philippines and Kyrgyzstan (all described herein), for now he's a Soccer Dad, behind the wheel of a minivan. Now he dreams not of tube tops but of Pampers. Sic transit gloria mundi. Reviewed by Jonathan Yardley., Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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A collection spanning thirty years, chronicling famed humorist and gearhead P. J. ORourkes love affair with the automobile from mid-twentieth century to now—from heyday to sickbay.
Spanning 30 years, this collection chronicles famed humorist and gearhead P.J. O'Rourke's love affair with the automobile from mid-20th century to now, from heyday to sickbay.
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