Whatever goes on in D.C., O'Rourke's against it

August 11, 1991|By Hugh McDiarmid | Hugh McDiarmid,Knight-Ridder News Service

PARLIAMENT OF WHORES. P. J. O'Rourke. Morgan Entrekin/Atlantic Monthly.

233 pages. $19.95. Now comes P. J. (for Patrick Jake) O'Rourke, humor writer, conservative polemicist and, to some of his critics, all-around misanthrope, authoring an aggressive, gonzolike put-down of American government . . . and then some.

His extensive fan club will love it.

Others may not.

"Parliament of Whores" is a wild, sometimes woolly mixture of sarcasm, invective, ad hominem assault and thoroughly subjective but often insightful reporting that seems designed to deflate if not incinerate much of official Washington.

Yet, it is also so cynical, so scornful and s-o-o glib that, well, many non-fans will surely (and understandably) be turned off.

PD Of course Mr. O'Rourke, a frequent contributor to Rolling Stone,

doesn't write for everyone, especially those straights who lack tolerance for character assassination, stretched truths, general insolence and a ribald sense of humor.

But his sweep is broad, including brash and biting critiques not only of government's major institutions (Congress, the Supreme Court, the presidency, etc.) but also major policies such as housing, defense, foreign, etc., with results that -- though consistently clever -- are very uneven.

There are marvelous, insightful, often hilarious reviews of GeorgeBush's inaugural balls ("you can't drink because the bar is 250,000 Republicans away from where you are," etc.), of Congress and of a night spent examining the seamy side of Washington with D.C. cops.

In other places, however, insight is lacking and humor seems strained. Among them are critiques of federal drug and housing policies, a chapter labeled "Dirt of the Earth" assailing environmentalists and a visceral attack on Social Security in which, inexplicably, Mr. O'Rourke lathers senior citizens as "geezers," "fusspots," "grizzled frumps," "hoarheads" and "mortuary bait."

Mr. O'Rourke, author of several earlier, equally outspoken books, is not one to hide his partisanship. So it figures that "Parliament," which spends a good deal of time reviewing the 1988 election, would be hotly pro-Bush, right?

Well, heh, heh, don't count on it.

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