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BOOK REVIEW: PJ O'ROURKE'S DRIVING LIKE CRAZY

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Sat, Jul 25, 2009

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

At the Petersen Museum (John Grafman) Book Review

DRIVING LIKE CRAZY Thirty Years of Vehicular Hell-bending, Celebrating America the Way It's Supposed To Be -- With an Oil Well in Every Backyard, a Cadillac Escalade in Every Carport, and the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Mowing Our Lawn by P.J. O'Rourke Hardcover: 288 pages Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press (June 9, 2009) ISBN-10: 0802118836 ISBN-13: 978-0802118837 Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.6 x 1.1 inches $24

Review by Doug Stokes

Driving Like Crazy

I must cop right here to having a congenital soft spot for this sort of explicit open collared, undershirt aflame, pants on fire, brain-banging writing. You know: Terry Southern, Hunter Thompson, Kenneth Patchen, Joe Scalzo. There are a few others perhaps, William Burroughs, Kafka. But, enough about my tastes in fine writing. What about this book? Well, first of all there seems to be a typo in this book's title. I think that the correct word is "Drinking" not "Driving Like Crazy"*. Heavily liquor-laced, hardly a page goes by in this one without O'Rourke talking up boozing with friends famous and not, usually after doing something semi-heroic, strange or suspicious behind the wheel. I actuality nowhere near as self-destructive (he's still alive, he signed a copy of this book for my wife at the Petersen only a few weeks ago) as many of the above, but every bit as sincerely gonzo as any. After seeing him on TV a couple of times recently and live at the museum, I must say he's most likely way overstated his debauchery levels in this book, (and who among us has not?) that, or his medical team is very good one. This is what I like to be quoted as calling: "A brightly sardonic collection of personal stories, some old and some new ... All told with a witty grin, great irony, repressed desires, questionable manners, and heavy imbibing ... Page after page of it, each episode more cleverly written than the next" Oh, there are a few vexing misspellings involved and a misattribution or two along the way, both of which were more that most likely laid-on just to tease the more scrupulous of his readers. Page after page O'Rourke never misses the opportunity to spear a liberal or three along the way. It is with not one single scintilla of subtlety that O'Rourke wears his libertarian heart on his sleeve; a badge of honor that must be serviced (in prosy) at the drop of a caps lock at least once per chapter. In fact, while reading through this collection one will be able to discern the year of writing (or at least the era) by reading who this author chooses to pants and whip. Early: Carter, Mid: Gore, Late: Obama, its sort of like carbon dating for kvetching. But, then again, that's what we read this guy for, the anti-establishment (especially if it is liberal) solid-silver zinger that gets an appreciative head nod and tongue click every time, gar-un-teed. We also read this guy for something more, some sort of reasoning for our car lust, something more than just that to satisfy our longings ... something that actually, finally, unequivocally separates us from those who would simply settle for a Saturn SUV. There's plenty of that sort of heart-warming stories here to enjoy and feel better about ourselves with, we are a damn superior bunch, cars are not only critical but good for the world at large. Read on herein and meet all sorts folks from carland that you've likely heard of but never really heard from. Flacks, fixers, feature writers, and the formulators, all friends of this author, many exposed to a different wave length of light on these pages. Reporter O'Rourke has the nose for news and the cache to cash in on the consequences. (That sentence makes absolutely no sense, it just sounded good to me, deal with it.) He has children, something that he developed at a late age, and he uses their good offices to good advantage in his later stories (after all the drinking was concluded a chapter or so back. Picking out a family vehicle in O'Rourke's hands becomes a compact version of the Odyssey as told by whoever the hell wrote Goldilocks and the 3 Bears. You will never guess. Not to put to sharp a point on it, but this book really is sharp-witted, auto-acupuncture at its very best. No stone, nor phrase, nor line of thought is left unturned in O'Rourke's headlong plunge into prose. Forewarned as you already are, I urge anyone who has slogged through this so-called "review" (I really did read the book cover to cover) to skitter out and buy one particularly so that O'Rourke is further encouraged to take up pen (or pound the keyboard or speak into whatever sort of device that he uses to soak up all of his verbal equivalent of what Charles Atlas called "dynamic tension" - - you know, no mechanical devices, no machines ... Just pitting one muscle group against the other and pushing very hard for a count of 10). O'Rourke makes ever sentence work to stand strong, every 'graph has grip, every page has punch, every chapter a coiled spring. Rib-tickling? Nope Side-Splitting? Hardly Political? Sure Thirty-some years of good "car" stories told with unflinching enthusiasm and just enough effulgent tub-thumppery for some vague sort of limited anarchy to take effect. Cool book ... This one is mine ... Get your own. - Doug Stokes

O'Rourke at the Petersen Museum book signing (John Grafman) * Ripped directly from Chapter 1, Page 1: "When it comes to taking chances, some people like to play or shoot dice; other people prefer to parachute jump, or 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 Chivas 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 and 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." I rest my case (I also wish that I could think like that, let alone write it all down). - DS For more information about other Petersen Museum events, click here

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