PJ O'Rourke - Don’t Vote! It Just Encourages the Bastards (3 stars)

Caustic witticisms from Ohio-born Gonzo graduate not for everyone

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PJ O'Rourke - Don’t Vote! It Just Encourages the Bastards

(Grove Press)

They say that the natural tendency is to get more right-wing with age. Few American political commentators embody this ethical shift more than PJ O’Rourke. A former ‘hippie’ turned Republican Party Reptile, it would be easy to loathe the Ohio-born Gonzo graduate were it not for the fact he is so eloquently humorous; even when you’re shaking your head in disgust, your funny bone is quivering thanks to his locker-room savviness.

With Don’t Vote!: It Just Encourages the Bastards, he describes his worldview volte-face and his belief in the failure of government through chapters with titles such as ‘Why I’m Right’, ‘Taxes’ and ‘Gun Control’. Needless to say, O’Rourke’s caustic witticisms are deliberately not for everyone. A particularly nasty crack about the Zeebrugge ferry disaster from his 1989 travelogue Holidays in Hell still has the ability to make the most hardened cynics recoil while his section here about the beheading of American journalist Daniel Pearl is tough reading even if the butt of his gag is the perpetrator, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

O’Rourke’s strengths lie in his undoubted intellectual capacity and a gratifying propensity to drip his satirical scorn around equally: naturally, the likes of Obama and Clinton get in the neck, but so do his fellow conservative travellers Richard Nixon and Newt Gingrich. But just when you start to properly warm to him, PJ comes out with a gem such as: ‘guns don’t kill people, votes do’. Maybe he’s not quite so clever after all.

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