Thursday, December 16, 2010

P. J. O’Rourke's 5 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:
Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

That’s satire more in the Roman mode. The usual definition of satire is humour used to a moral end for a moral purpose, and there’s certainly a moral purpose to 1984 but it’s not funny really. I mean there is a certain dark humour to rewriting history and things going down a memory hole.

It’s funny in the Russian sense of the word.

I like that. Believe me, I’ll steal that phrase.

I’ll see you in court.

It’s sort of like being popular in Japan.


It’s eerily predictive of the sort of video camera surveillance world that we now live in. It would be interesting to update 1984 and make all of the things that Orwell foresaw more annoying than dangerous. Well, some of them do get pretty dangerous, but things like television that looks back at you turns out to be a real pain in the ass more than an instrument of government control. We’ve come into the world of 1984 but it turns out to be 1984-Lite.

There’s something surrealist about the absolutely unspeakable horror of somebody’s imagination being actually slightly banal.

Sad in a way. Sad, but at the same time quite a relief. Sad, but a relief.
Read about the other books O'Rourke tagged.

Nineteen Eighty-four is #7 on a list of the 100 best last lines from novels. The book made Daniel Johnson's five best list of books about Cold War culture, Robert Collins' top ten list of dystopian novels, Gemma Malley's top 10 list of dystopian novels for teenagers, is one of Norman Tebbit's six best books and one of the top ten works of literature according to Stephen King. It made a difference to Isla Fisher, and appears on John Mullan's lists of ten of the best rats in literature and ten of the best horrid children in fiction.

--Marshal Zeringue