A Review of P.J. O’Rourke’s "None of My Business"
A millennial reacts to O’Rourke’s latest collection of essays on economics
Millennials are thought to A) take everything for granted, including history and economics, B) not be very understanding of their forefathers’ stances and C) promote self-censorship, i.e. adhere to political correctness. While I don’t claim to be the spokesman of my generation, I can say that the critics do have a point. From the millennials I know, I can say that we are generally more sensitive to gender, sexuality, economic circumstances; are not huge fans of our parents’ political and economic views; and, most notably, we do take quite a lot for granted.
And for that final reason, I think people my age should read P.J. O’Rourke’s latest collection of essays, “None of My Business.” It was refreshing to hear a voice that not only challenged my views but made me laugh at them too.
The most intriguing parts of O’Rourke’s book are the sections where he attempts to understand the 21st century. In my favorite chapter, titled “Unnovations,” he gives compelling and pretty funny arguments against contemporary norms. He dismisses public texting by rewriting “Cheers” (where everybody knows your username). Regarding the social sciences, which he says are neither science nor social, he summarizes, “Anthropology is lousy travel writing.” As for the increasingly accepted 24/7 work week, he writes, “Enough already! ... The Muslims say Friday. The Jews say Saturday. The Christians say Sunday. I say, ‘Three Day Weekend!’)
Although the subtitle says he “explains” an array of financial topics, if you are expecting a Michael Lewis-eque book or an economics tome to add a new suit of armor to your opinions, you are going to be disappointed. Just like his last book about the 2016 election, O’Rourke’s observations seem bound to the confines of his rural New Hampshire home (although drawn from a lifetime spent as a travel writer, war correspondent and literary prankster). While this personal touch reminded me of my post-dinner living room discussions with my family, the discussions about mutant capitalism and banking come off as rushed. I too get chills when I am surrounded by skyscrapers with company names on them that block out the sun like Titans, but I would have appreciated a little more depth.
Yes, a good portion of the jokes are “dad jokes.” And yes, if you don’t agree politically with P.J., he can be a bit preachy and one-track-minded. But at the very least this essay collection will make you think, and maybe even change your mind about the world of dollar signs and double Windsor knots.
“None of My Business,” $27, is published by Atlantic Monthly Press. D.A. Dellechiaie is a senior at Boston University, interning for the summer with New Hampshire Magazine.