Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Holidays in Heck

Sometimes it seems as if I’ve been reading political humorist P.J. O’Rourke forever, so when I spotted Holidays in Heck in the “new books” section of my local library a few days ago I grabbed it.  This one bills itself as “the follow-up to the classic Holidays in Hell” -a 1989 book I thoroughly enjoyed - the premise being that O’Rourke, this time around, will tell us about some of his family vacations in place of describing the hellhole war zone days of his prior life.  (O’Rourke swore off war zones after the Iraq war.)

Holidays in Heck is written pretty much in the expected P.J. O’Rourke style, but his observations do not seem to have quite the bite of his earlier work (even though the book is largely rewritten from articles published as early as 2003 in magazines such as Forbes, The Weekly Standard, and World Affairs).  Perhaps this is because of the nature of the subject matter, or because O’Rourke places less emphasis on politics this time than he usually does, but this one reads as a tamer version of his earlier writing style.

The book, for some reason, chooses to open with its weakest chapter, one called “Republicans Evolving” in which O’Rourke describes a 2003 trip taken to the Galapagos Islands with some of his Republican friends.  Largely one-joke repeated too many times to be funny (his Republican friends’ first concern always seems to be the edibility of every creature they observe on the islands), this chapter is thankfully not representative of those that follow.  Subsequent chapters find O’Rourke, often with his entire family in tow, visiting places such as the National World War II monument in Washington D.C., Brays Island Plantation in South Carolina, China, the mountains of Kyrgyzstan, Hong Kong, Disneyland, or Afghanistan.  Along the way, he even manages to go skiing in Ohio (who knew?), riding to the hounds in England, and convinces his family to vacation at home one year.

Holidays in Heck is an interesting travelogue, and much of what O’Rourke had to say as he passed through various layers of “heck” made me smile.  Surprisingly, I began to look forward to the observations of O’Rourke’s two little girls, “Muffin” and her younger sister “Poppet,” as their father wryly reported on their innocent world view.  Seeing a bit of the world through the fresh eyes of children is never a bad thing.

Rated at: 3.0    

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