6.03.2009

P.J. O'Rourke Is A Great Writer. As A Re-Writer, Not So Much


P.J. O'Rourke is a former National Lampoon editor and writer who branched out into automotive journalism at Car And Driver (another example of why David E. Davis Jr. is the father of modern automotive journalism) in 1977, following NatLamp's publication of his hysterical (if vulgar, sexist and, in those days, borderline obscene) piece "How To Drive Fast On Drugs While Getting Your Wing-Wang Squeezed And Not Spill Your Drink".

Over the years, that particular gem has been reprinted in at least one of O'Rourke's books...but with a few of the words changed. Now, P.J. has put out a compilation of his car pieces for Car and Driver, Automobile and other magazines, Driving Like Crazy. And once again, he's editing himself. Jean Jennings mentions it gently in her column in the July Automobile.

O'Rourke himself cops to it in the book...arguing that he's now a better writer, so changing is improving. I disagree. P.J.'s pieces are better the first time (so much so that I think I'd like to read the first drafts).

Evidence of how good P.J. is when he's not overthinking it is found in this past Saturday's Wall Street Journal, where he gives us "The End of Our Love Affair With Cars". It's classic, yet mature P.J. Go read. Then hit your local used bookstore and see if you can find the original back issues of Car and Driver and Automobile to see P.J.'s work the way it was originally written.

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