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How the Hell Did This Happen?: The US…
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How the Hell Did This Happen?: The US Election of 2016 (2017)

by P. J. O'Rourke

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P.J. O'Rourke and his conservative view is bearable because he presents it with a sense of humor. Something usually missing in conservative presentations. Another saving grace is the fact that he realizes the election of Donald Trump to the presidency is the worst outcome possible in this election, (except P.J. obviously thinks this election couldn't have a good outcome, considering the candidates!). He does present some alternatives, some of whom I could also get behind. So maybe with a little humor and an open mind, there is still hope! ( )
  thosgpetri | Feb 25, 2018 |
Full disclosure: I was given an ARC of this book via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

You're right, it's a good title. P. J. O'Rourke's always been good at titles ([Eat The Rich, Don't Vote, it Just Encourages the Bastards, The Baby Boom: How It Got That Way (And It Wasn’t My Fault)). When it comes to his politics, your mileage may vary.

O'Rourke's beliefs are not mine: he likes guns, God and the American Way; I like peace, Dawkins and a more equivocal Captain America. But that's OK, that's fine; if you only ever read people who agree with you, you're going to be very tiresome at parties.

That said, neither of us likes Donald Trump, so we can at least come together around the roaring tyre fire of American politics.

Journalists are going to be trying to make sense of the Donald's win for decades to come – many were trying before it even happened. As a first pass, this collection of essays is as bewildered as the rest of us; as O'Rourke acknowledges, "if my book lacks a coherent narrative it's because I couldn't find one."

While I can sympathise with his confusion it doesn't make for the best of reads. He is reliably funny and insightful ("Americans appreciate bad taste or America wouldn't look the way America does") but the lack of focus leads to repetition, a certain degree of disingenuousness, and some brashness verging on outright offensiveness (I genuinely don't think his problem with Hillary Clinton is her gender, but he's too happy to make her gender the subject of his jokes).

Filters set and allowances made, I'll be reading more P. J. O'Rourke. He's the semi-acceptable face of American conservatism (with all the moral relativism that implies) at a time when that label is better associated with mendacity, bigotry and the neediness of a five-year-old. But while funny, this book just isn't a particularly insightful or enlightening history of its subject. Sad. ( )
1 vote m_k_m | Apr 18, 2017 |
This is an absolutely hilarious and compelling look at the presidential election of 2016. It is a must read for social studies teachers and anyone interested in either politics or history. I loved it! ( )
  Susan.Macura | Mar 19, 2017 |
I tend to avoid reading election post-mortem books because usually the ground covered is simultaneously too old to be newsworthy and too fresh to be considered "history." They are somewhere in between: a political netherworld of limited relevancy. But P.J. O'Rourke has been popping up recently as a pundit on the airwaves, offering his wry commentary and promoting his new book, How the Hell Did This Happen?: The Election of 2016. So, based largely on his reputation as a humorist I decided to give it a shot. The book reaffired my aversion to such books on that opening principle. And while there are a few good laugh-out-loud moments, particularly in his fashion notes on the candidates, this is an uneven mix of essays that generally fail to amuse or offer lasting insights. ( )
  ghr4 | Mar 17, 2017 |
There was a time when I thought PJ O'Rourke was the funniest political commentator/writer around. However, in today's world of Jon Stewart, Colbert, Bee, and John Oliver, he really needs to up his game. I skipped my way through 'How the Hell Did This Happen?' and was struck by how hard PJ was working to be funny and how generally ineffective his efforts were.

'How the Hell....' is a series of essays O'Rourke penned during the 2016 presidential campaign. They're very uneven... some are semi-serious, others ludicrous, but they all try to be humorous. It's certainly interesting to follow the writer's attempts to make sense, and light, out of the circus that was the 2016 election. After a while, though, it became tedious as we know the outcome and what's happened after the election is sadder and funnier than the book. ( )
  gmmartz | Mar 9, 2017 |
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Epigraph
“A pity they both can’t lose.” —comment on the Iraq-Iran War attributed to Henry Kissinger
Dedication
To Morgan Entrekin My editor, my publisher, and, best of all, my friend
First words
Who are these jacklegs, highbinders, wire-pullers, mountebanks, swellheads, buncombe spigots, boodle artists, four-flushers, and animated spittoons offering themselves as worthy of the nation’s highest office?
Quotations
if my book lacks a coherent narrative it’s because I couldn’t find one
Political pundits are under professional obligation to regard the obvious as being too obvious.
Americans appreciate bad taste or America wouldn’t look the way America does.
Democrats are liberals, and—to their profound embarrassment—liberalism is an old, white European male political philosophy.
In America, instead of political parties, we have two vague political tendencies.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0802126197, Hardcover)

No comedian could have written the joke this election cycle has been. The punch line is too ridiculous (whoever the punch line is going to be). Or, as celebrated political satirist, journalist, and diehard Republican P. J. O’Rourke put it in his endorsement of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton: “America is experiencing the most severe outbreak of mass psychosis since the Salem witch trials of 1692.”

In his latest book, P.J. brings his critical eye and inimitable voice to some serious risky business. How the Hell Did This Happen? begins with him diving into the pig pile of presidential candidates circa June 2015 including Jim (“who?”) Webb, Scott Walker (“America’s chance to have a President who gets carded every time he orders a beer”), Ted Cruz (“crazy like a fox—no, like a Fox News broadcast), Bernie Sanders (“Trump for people still living in their parents’ basements”), and Donald Trump himself ("Landlord of the Flies"). P.J. eviscerates each frontrunner as he or she emerges from under the rock where they’ve all been living. He covers the dreadful key primaries and candidate debates, takes us through his come-to-Satan moment with Hillary, and leads the way into the Beginning of End Times in November.

(retrieved from Amazon Sun, 29 Jan 2017 17:23:03 -0500)

"No comedian could have written the joke this election cycle has been. The punch line is too ridiculous (whoever the punch line is going to be). Or, as celebrated political satirist, journalist, and diehard Republican P.J. O'Rourke put it in his endorsement of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton: "America is experiencing the most severe outbreak of mass psychosis since the Salem witch trials of 1692." In his latest book, P.J. brings his critical eye and inimitable voice to some serious risky business. How the Hell Did This Happen? begins with him diving into the pig pile of presidential candidates circa June 2015 including Jim ("who?") Webb, Scott Walker ("America's chance to have a President who gets carded every time he orders a beer"), Ted Cruz ("crazy like a fox-no, like a Fox News broadcast), Bernie Sanders ("Trump for people still living in their parents' basements"), and Donald Trump himself ("Landlord of the Flies"). P.J. eviscerates each frontrunner as he or she emerges from under the rock where they've all been living. He covers the dreadful key primaries and candidate debates, takes us through his come-to-Satan moment with Hillary, and leads the way into the Beginning of End Times in November"--… (more)

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