Driving Like Crazy

(Atlantic Monthly Press, June 2009)

Book Forum
June 9, 2009 12:00PM
Auditorium/Wintergarden
Featuring the author P. J. O’Rourke, H. L. Mencken Research Fellow, Cato Institute.

If scathing, uproarious, and insightful political satire were not enough, for more than 30 years P. J. O’Rourke—acclaimed humorist and H. L. Mencken Research Fellow at the Cato Institute—has written about his love affair with the automobile. His newest book, Driving Like Crazy: Thirty Years of Vehicular Hell-bending, Celebrating America the Way It’s Supposed to Be—With an Oil Well in Every Backyard, a Cadillac Escalade in Every Carport, and the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Mowing Our Lawn combines his classic articles on automobiles with new material and traces the birth and death of America’s car obsession.

Starting with his childhood as the grandson of an Ohio Buick dealer, O’Rourke details some of his earliest adventures as an automotive writer, on assignment for Car and Driver, Rolling Stone, Forbes, Esquire, among others. What emerges is a love letter to the glory days of the American automobile, from the perspective of a 60-something who has been driving like crazy for a lifetime.

O’Rourke opens the book by chronicling the end of an era, as the government bails out the auto industry, places ever-more-strident restrictions on emissions, and, as he sees it, brings to a halt the heyday of the American car. “Pity the poor American car when Congress and the White House get through with it,” he laments, “a light-weight vehicle with a small carbon footprint, using alternative energy and renewable resources to operate in a sustainable way. When I was a kid we called it a Schwinn.”

Reaffirming O’Rourke’s stature as “the funniest writer in America”—with previous best-sellers including Parliament of Whores, Give War a Chance, Eat the Rich, The CEO of the Sofa, and his most recent, On the Wealth of Nations—this new addition to his dazzling canon takes readers on a wild ride—from his earliest live-fast-and-drive-fast days to his older, wiser, SUV-driving, Prius-hating self.