Thursday, December 16, 2010

P. J. O’Rourke's five best political satires

P. J. O’Rourke's books include Parliament of Whores, Give War a Chance, Eat the Rich, The CEO of the Sofa, Peace Kills , and On the Wealth of Nations. His latest book is Don’t Vote – It Just Encourages the Bastards.

With Anna Blundy at FiveBooks, he discussed five of the best political satires, including:
Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift

Well, in the first place it is very funny. We read it first as kids as an adventure story, without understanding the political context in Europe or the philosophical context. Then when we read it again as adults we realise that Swift is having a good deal of fun here. Just the religious allegory with the Big-enders and the Little-enders and the idea of people who live for ever. And don’t they just turn out to be the kind of people who live for ever today? They show every sign of Alzheimer’s.

When did you first read it?

I was about 14, I think. It was a little bit of a slog, but such a good story that I pushed forward with it. Swift’s take on human nature is evergreen. Whether people would use horses any more [as the perfection of nature], I don’t know. I don’t suppose we’re as familiar with them as Swift was; we’d use dogs or cats. No, not cats. There’s something a little wicked about cats.
Read about another novel on the list.

Gulliver's Travels is one of Neil deGrasse Tyson's five most important books, and appears on John Mullan's list of ten of the best vegetables in literature and John Derbyshire's list of the five best books about curmudgeons.

--Marshal Zeringue