The prolific cultural commentator offers a miscellany of (mostly) travel pieces, a follow-up of sorts to his collection of war journalism, Holidays in Hell (1988).
Having retired from the hazards of war, O’Rourke (Don’t Vote—It Just Encourages the Bastards, 2010, etc.) faces the challenge of learning to travel for leisure with his family: “What is this thing called fun? To judge by traveling with my wife and daughters it has something to do with shopping for clothes.” Many of the essays are unabashed paeans to the pastimes of wealthy, middle-aged Republicans: The author visits ski resorts, hunting preserves and even a tour of the Galápagos Islands. Unfortunately, despite lovingly described meals and leisure, these serve as excuses for O’Rourke to rail against uptight liberals who love perverted art and oppressive government and hate guns, hunting, the outdoors and good times. This predictable rhetorical structure reaches its nadir in an irritating essay on the 2005 Venice Biennale, where O’Rourke expresses a strange anger towards the entire edifice of contemporary art: “The Guerrilla Girls are too young to remember what a babe Gloria Steinem was…[and] too old to realize how beside the point their point is.” The problem here is not the author’s conservative views, but rather that his writing has become increasingly sour and lazy. The better pieces are built more around straightforward reportage and observation, such as two essays narrating his trips through the new economic powerhouse of China. He also provides colorful, earthy descriptive passages regarding stag hunts in Britain, extreme horseback riding in the wilds of Kyrgyzstan, a poignant look at his bout with cancer and a brief jaunt to Kabul, Afghanistan.
Red meat for his fans, unlikely to convert new ones.