"The Baby Boom" by P.J. O'Rourke : Book Review

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Editorial and Opinion  |  House: Booksie Classic
O'Rourke defines the baby boom generation as those born between 1946 and 1964. This is a review of his book "The Baby Boom", which is a memoir of sorts.

Submitted: January 30, 2016

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Submitted: January 30, 2016



P.J. O’Rourke and I were born the same year, so I know from where he cometh. The Baby Boom could very well be my story. O’Rourke’s characters like Hairy Bob, Steverino and Jumbo could have just as easily been Hog, The Clown, and Psycho whom I knew.

 I waited for the draft physical in the same line he did clad only in jockey shorts and socks and like him, I also got a medical deferment.  For me, it was high blood pressure, which was the only time in my life I was ever so diagnosed. O’Rourke would have us believe that for him it was for having a drug addled mind and a letter from a hippie doctor.

The author lived in Big Green. For me, it was the Cherry House. Is there a scene in The Baby Boom when Chards drives a motorcycle through the front door? Oh no, that’s right that happened to me maybe the same night that we invented the circle dance that we all became so proficient at. Yes, these were the best of times and yet the worst of times.

So there is no question of the authenticity of O’Rourke’s work, even though he says in his preface that the work is “full of crap.”  However, I do believe him when he writes, “Only the most outrageous and unbelievable things in this book are recounted exactly as they happened.” Sometimes reality outstrips fiction in its seeming fantasy since the life and times of a boomer lends itself to hyperbole and “clouded” recollections.

The whole story is there from being a child, through adolescence to adulthood. Forget that last stage since boomers haven’t gotten there yet. The mileage markers are there too- Adlai Stevenson, the Kennedy assassination and “one giant leap for mankind.” All told with O’Rourke’s flair for erudition that borders on obscurity.

Surprisingly, I think O’Rourke does an equally good job describing the greatest generation. But I wonder if this is the dutiful son of the 1950’s paying homage or maybe it’s me, the dutiful son nostalgically looking back on times and people that aren’t coming back.  

But the real question is whether O’Rourke is funny, isn’t it? And let’s face it he has the bonafide, 18 books and 50 years of humor, from National Lampoon to Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me. But does it really matter if this story makes you laugh- probably not? The important thing is that the story is told and that O’Rourke captures all of the recklessness and the self-indulgence of the period and most likely will crack you up in the process. As for how his story and mine converge, I’m not laughing.

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