P.J. O’Rourke, irreverent author and commentator, dead at 74

Associated Press

New York – P.J. O’Rourke, the prolific author and satirist who re-fashioned the irreverence and “Gonzo” journalism of the 1960s counterculture into a distinctive brand of conservative and libertarian commentary, has died at age 74.

O’Rourke died Tuesday morning, according to Grove Atlantic Inc. Books publisher and president Morgan Entrekin. He did not cite a specific cause, but said O’Rourke had been ill in recent months.

Author PJ O'Rourke attends 2015 House Of SpeakEasy Gala at City Winery on January 28, 2015 in New York City.

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.

P. J. O'Rourke, author of "Peace Kills: America's Fun New Imperialism", speaks during panel discussion during a luncheon at the Book Expo America convention, Saturday, June 5, 2004, in Chicago.

“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. They come to Washington because they have no choice – diligent working breeds compelled to eat their regurgitated tax dollars,” he wrote.

O’Rourke’s books included the best sellers “Parliament of Whores” and “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.”