P.J. O’Rourke, the prolific author and satirist who re-fashioned 1960s’ irreverence and “Gonzo” journalism counterculture into a distinctive brand of conservative and libertarian commentary, has died at age 74.
O’Rourke died Tuesday morning, according to Grove Atlantic books publisher and president Morgan Entrekin. He did not cite a specific cause, but said O’Rourke had been ill in recent months.
O’Rourke was a Toledo, Ohio, native who evolved from long-haired student activist to wavy-haired scourge of his old liberal ideals, with some of his more widely read take-downs appearing in a founding counterculture publication, Rolling Stone.
His career otherwise extended from the early years of National Lampoon to a brief stint on 60 Minutes in which he represented the conservative take on Point/Counterpoint to frequent appearances on NPR’s game show Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!
His writing style suggested a cross between the hedonism of Hunter S. Thompson and the patrician mockery of Tom Wolfe. Self-importance was a reliable target. But his greatest disdain was often for the government — not just a specific administration, but government itself and what he called “the silken threads of entitlement spending.”
In a 2018 column for a venerable conservative publication, the Weekly Standard, he looked on with scorn at Washington, D.C.’s gentrification.
“People are flocking to the seat of government power. One would say `dogs returning to their vomit’ except that’s too hard on dogs. Too hard on people, also,” he wrote. “They come to Washington because they have no choice — diligent working breeds compelled to eat their regurgitated tax dollars.”
O’Rourke’s books included the best sellers Parliament of Whores, Give War a Chance, None of My Business and A Cry from the Middle.
Entrekin told The Associated Press that he had been working on a one-volume look at the United States, as seen from his hometown: A History of Toledo, Ohio: From the Beginning of Time Til the End of the Universe.