JAMES LILEKS ON P.J. O’ROURKE:
I saw a tweet that had a picture of P. J. O’Rourke in the 70s, and smiled, wondering why someone had posted it – and then a flood of oh no tweets. A few said there was no confirmation, no news stories, it was actually someone else, and for a while I thought that was possible. Texted a few people who would know, and had it confirmed. I mean, when it comes from the publicist, it’s real. Unless the publicist is really trying to get the client’s attention. See what I did? You’re trending!
It’s wretched. He was an idol, a GOD when I was reading NatLamp and Rolling Stone, and the idea that I would ever get to know him and hang out would have seemed absurd. Oh right and S. J. Perelman is going to come back to life and pull up in an elegant car with brass appointments, and pick you up, and swing ‘round to get Fran and Woody and you’ll all go to Elaine’s. (That would have been my idea of a humorist conclave on Mt. Olympus back then.)
The last time I saw him, he was in town, and we went outside the hotel where he was speaking and sat down and enjoyed the warm summer Minneapolis night. Clean town, bright lights, a good sane place. We talked about Toledo and other towns of lesser size, about our parents’ generation, about our misspent years and journeys to other notions.
He was a boon companion, as smart as he was funny, and vice versa. I have a bottle of his preferred libation and opened it tonight and toasted his book on the shelf. It sits with the greats. And it puts half of them to shame.
As Kyle Smith writes, “Assuming the smart people are wrong may not work for you every day, but you can definitely fill your tank with it and go. Of Enron, in 2002, O’Rourke wrote, ‘Everyone blames too little regulation for the Enron mess, but maybe the culprit was too much.’ Of how corruption in politics works, he wrote, ‘A chilling characteristic of politicians is that they’re not in it for the money.’ Of Bangladesh, he wrote, in All the Trouble in the World, ‘If overpopulation is something to worry about and if Bangladesh’s degree of crowding constitutes overpopulation, then Fremont [Calif.] should be a worry, too. In fact, with 2,250 people per square mile compared to Bangladesh’s 2,130, Fremont is slightly more worrisome.’”