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My American Idol


I've been waiting for someone to ask me, "Jay, just who would you say are your biggest influences in your writing?" No one has yet, and I'm sick of waiting.

Traditionally (wow, blogs have been around long enough to develop traditions!), bloggers have been loosely divided into two camps: "thinkers" and "linkers." The finest examplars of these two schools of thought are Glenn Reynolds, the Instapundit (whose power to draw attention on postings forced the creation of the term "Instalanche"), and the amazing (and now apparently semi-retired) Steven Den Beste, of USS Clueless.

(In Den Beste's absence, there is no clear successor, but Wretchard of The Belmont Club is probably the most highly regarded "thinker" around.)

I've always thought of myself as more of a "thinker" than a "linker." That's partly out of laziness; I have plenty of time to think during the day, but linking requires me to take the effort to go out and find interesting stuff to report.

But I'd have to say the writer I most admire would have to be P. J. O'Rourke. Not only is P. J. one of those most rara of avis -- a conservative humorist who is actually FUNNY -- but he does his homework and knows his stuff. And man, he knows how to write a title. My "In Praise of Civilian Casualties" was inspired by O'Rourke, who comes up with incredibly outrageous (but accurate) titles for his books.

His discussion of how the United States governent works? "Parliament Of Whores." Economics? "Eat The Rich." The modern anti-war movement? "Peace Kills." International diplomacy? "Give War A Chance." The big crises (poverty, famine, homelessness, plague): "All The Trouble In The World."

He also has a respectable pedigree. P. J. has worked for the National Lampoon, Rolling Stone, Car & Driver, Automobile, and ABC Radio, among others.

And it doesn't hurt that he's now a fellow resident of New Hampshire...

I think one of the finest things he ever wrote was in 1988's "Holidays In Hell." In it, he recounted an argument he had with some effete Europeans and, in my opinion, summed up just what it means to be an American. I'm sticking it in the extended section, though, because P.J. gets pretty vulgar and politically incorrect (but screamingly funny). But damn, he's nails it. Every now and then, I re-read that section for affirmation.

J.

Update: Professor Chaos, in the comments, wishes to assure us that not all members of academia are mindless, liberal drones, and that there people like Professor Chaos who have actually read and agreed with P. J. O'Rourke. Professor Chaos would also like Wizbang readers to go and visit his blog, but is too cheap to fork out for a real blogad, and instead Professor Chaos pimps his site in comments and begs for traffic to his site. I am shocked and appalled by this crass behavior by Professor Chaos, and wish to ask Professor Chaos from engaging in such behavior in the future. You might put up with such shenanigans over at your own site, Professor Chaos, such things will not be tolerated here at Wizbang.

(Update 2: apparently I am giving people the impression that I coined the phrase "thinkers and linkers." It is NOT my devising. I think I first read it over on Den Beste's site, but I could be wrong. I may not know who created it, but it was NOT me. I just wish it was.)

Update 3: I finally found the Den Beste pages where he mentions the "thinkers and linkers" meme. They are here and here.

J.

Back in London, I was having dinner in the Groucho Club -- this week's in-spot for what's left of Britain's lit gritz and nouveau rock riche -- when one person started in on the Stars And Stripes. Eventually he got, as the Europeans always do, to the part about "your country's never been invaded." (This fellow had been two during the Blitz, you see.) "You don't know the horror, the suffering. You think war is..."
I snapped.
"A John Wayne movie," I said. That's what you were going to say, wasn't it? We think war is a John Wayne movie. We think life is a John Wayne movie -- with good guys and bad guys, as simple as that. Well, you know something, Mister Limey Poofter? You're right. And let me tell you who those bad guys are. They're us. WE BE BAD.
We're the baddest-ass sons of bitches that ever jogged in Reeboks. We're three-quarters grizzly bear and two-thirds car wreck and descended from a stock market crash on our mother's side. You take your Germany, France and Spain, roll them all together and it wouldn't give us room to park our cars. We're the big boys, Jack, the original, giant, economy-sized, new and improved butt kickers of all time. When we snort coke in Houston, people lose their hats in Cap D'Antibes. And we've got an American Express card credit limit higher than your piss-ant metric numbers go.
"You say our country's never been invaded? You're right, little buddy. Because I'd like to see the needle-dicked foreigners who'd have the guts to try. We drink napalm to get our hearts started in the morning. A rape and a mugging is our way of saying 'Cheerio.' Hell can't hold our sock-hops. We walk taller, talk louder, spit further, fuck longer and buy more things than you know the names of. I'd rather be a junkie in a New York City jail than king, queen, and jack of all you Europeans. We eat little countries like this for breakfast and shit them out before lunch."
Of course, the guy should have punched me. But this was Europe. He just smiled his shabby, superior European smile. (God, don't these people have dentists?)


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Comments (13)

"All the trouble in the wor... (Below threshold)
Master of None:

"All the trouble in the world" is one of my favorite books. P.J. is one of those rare Rolling Stones authors that grew up.

Jay: I wonder if you can na... (Below threshold)

Jay: I wonder if you can name one professor, in the liberal-dominated field of academics, who requires his students to read and write a paper on "Parliament of Whores."

Surprise, it's me, Professor Chaos -- a blogger desperate for links but also one who wants Wizbang readers to know that there are several of us fighting the fight from the inside.

Jay, I couldn't agree more:... (Below threshold)

Jay, I couldn't agree more: I have everything written by P.J. O'Rourke and started subscribing to The Atlantic magazine if only because he writes for that mag now.

My favorite is "Eat the Rich" which explains economic theory so much better than the entire University of Chicago.

Me too, Jay. I've read all ... (Below threshold)
Jim:

Me too, Jay. I've read all of PJ's books. And my favorites are Parliament of Whores and Give War A Chance. Cool stuff.

I had a wonderful chance to... (Below threshold)

I had a wonderful chance to meet PJ this summer at a CATO Institute event here in NYC. Got his latest book signed and shook the guy's hand.

I started reading his stuff about 12-15 years ago in/after college. Even made a T-shirt on time when I had a lowly job at Kinko's - with a quote of his from Holidays in Hell. It's Still the Greatest:

---------------
We think war is a John Wayne movie. We think life is a John Wayne movie--with good guys and bad guys, as simple as that. Well, you know something, Mr. Limey Poofter? You're right. And let me tell you who those bad guys are. They're us. WE BE BAD.


We're the baddest-assed sons of bitches that ever jogged in Reeboks. We're three-quarters grizzly bear and two-thirds car wreck and descended from a stock market crash on our mother's side. You take your Germany, France, and Spain, roll them all together and it still wouldn't give us room to park our cars. We're the big boys, Jack, the original, giant, economy-sized, new and improved butt-kickers of all time. When we snort coke in Houston, people lose their hats in Cap d'Antibes. And we've got an American Express card credit limit higher than your piss-ant metric numbers go.


You say our country's never been invaded? You're right, little buddy. Because I'd like to see the needle-dicked foreigners who'd have the guts to try. We drink napalm to get our hearts started in the morning. A rape and a mugging is our way of saying "Cheerio." Hell can't hold our sock-hops. We walk taller, talk louder, spit farther, fuck longer, and buy more things than you know the names of. I'd rather be a junkie in a New York City jail than king, queen, and jack of all you Europeans. We eat little countries like this for breakfast and shit them out before lunch.

- You put all that on one T... (Below threshold)

- You put all that on one T shirt Scott.... dayam....

- Jay what was the link to the Profs site again?... *chuckle*

- You put all that on one T... (Below threshold)

- You put all that on one T shirt Scott.... dayam....

- Jay what was the link to the Profs site again?... *chuckle*

(Note to Hunter: uh-oh, I ... (Below threshold)
-S-:

(Note to Hunter: uh-oh, I hope the Professor Chaos bug isn't catching!)

Ha.

About P.J. O'Rourke, he's the Anti-Hunter Thompson. SOMEone had to be, and thank God for that.

I always like David Felton's work at Rolling Stone, way back when. He wrote excellent coverage of the Manson thing, RS ran it in several ongoing parts as the events passed and were revealed later.

But I agree, Jay, about the two general blogger categories. I find the sites that just include linkhere and linkhere and anotherlinkhere as total entry tiresome, and really appreciate bloggers who actually write their own content, whatever it is. Discussing issues, including those among daily news events, can be something other than "Copy of Headline Here With Link to Source" but the several Really Big Blogs tend to make that their standard and too often.

I really enjoy reading original content that includes links and references when mentioned, but that focuses on an original statement rather than an opinion and link edit.

Jay -- Ok, point taken, but... (Below threshold)

Jay -- Ok, point taken, but your castigation did amount to over 100 hits, so the Wizbang-launch I hoped for kinda happened.

Anyway, sorry for the link pandering.

PJ "worked for National Lam... (Below threshold)

PJ "worked for National Lampoon"? He edited it. Says that writing all those parodies there made him as a writer. In order to parody properly you've got to understand what the original writer is doing with the language...a new parody every issue taught him how it all works. It's one of the things I think people frequently miss about him, the elegance of his language, the intricate construction.
Yes, I've also read all his stuff and truly wish that I could write as he does. There's two English writers, Alan Coren and Bernard Levin who I also would love to be able to mimic. What will actually happen, I hope, is as Coren said. You strain to write like your heros and come across as a bad parody or lame copy of them (as I do now) and as you keep going, some years later, you end up with your own style, obviously influenced by but not a copy of your idols.
Sorry, I know this isn't a writing seminar.
PJ's best? Although all the above mentioned are good (great?) I'm still most attracted to "Republican Party Reptile" which was his first book of collected essays. I got it when it first came out (aged d'ya see?) and the shock and joy of reading such comic language has stuck with me. How can you not like a book containing an essay"How to drive fast while on drugs and get your wing-wang squeezed without spilling your drink"?

I admit it I am a linker. ... (Below threshold)
chad:

I admit it I am a linker. The main reason for it: I am not a good writer but I want to get my points or in any case points I agree with out there. There are probably about 3 peope who are visiting my site, but I figure if I can at least steer them towards other sites with a coherent theme I have made an impact.

My American Idol is Diana D... (Below threshold)

My American Idol is Diana Degarmo.

It appears that some... (Below threshold)
jack rudd:


It appears that some of you would also be interested in Tom Wolfe's book (from 30+ years ago), "Radical Chic and Mau-mauing the Flak Catchers". It's hilarious but also serious. The first half is about Leonard Bernstein's party for the Black Panthers. The second half is about the relationship between welfare pimps and welfare bureaucrats.





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