NonFiction Review – Modern Manners by P.J. O’Rourke

From Amazon, Google books, and Good Reads Modern Manners: An Etiquette Book for Rude People by P.J. O’Rourke gets a solid 3 stars out of 5 stars.

Modern Manners was originally published in 1983. A revised version was of the book was republished in 1989 because the original was too risqué.

In the revised version it cleaned up some of O’Rourke’s comments to make them more reader-friendly and less offensive to some.

“The prose in the revised edition was also cleaned up a bit – partly to correct my solecisms and partly to reflect the decade’s growing prudery. (AIDS had rendered certain jokes not quite as funny as they’d seemed six years before.)” O’Rourke says.

Taken from the back of the original edition of the book:

“A complete guide to contemporary social behavior detailing all the most up-to-date forms of vulgarity, churlishness, and presumption.”

This book is a rule book mocking etiquette, and everything society has learned from it. This book is a guide on anti-etiquette for people living in a world without rules. This advice, written for the ‘90s (and beyond) goes on a range of topics from sex, entertainment, and death.

From what I gather, P.J. O’Rourke is a funny, cynical man that doesn’t like the change in the world and has a lot to say.

Here is what a mix of Google Books and his website has to say about him:

“Satirist and novelist Patrick James “P. J.” O’Rourke was born in 1947 in Toledo, Ohio. He graduated from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio and attended Johns Hopkins University where he received his M.A. in English.” – Google Books

“He began writing funny things in the 1960s “underground” newspapers, became editor-in-chief of National Lampoon, then spent 20 years reporting for Rolling Stone and The Atlantic Monthly as the world’s only trouble spot humorist, going to wars, riots, rebellions, and other “Holidays in Hell” in more than 40 countries. He’s written 16 books on subjects as diverse as politics and cars and etiquette and economics.” – P.J. O’Rourke’s Website’s “Author Bio”

P.J. has written for a lot of magazines, even to screenplays and books. That’s no exception for his website. There, he has another section dedicated to what he wants to say in his biography.

He talks about his family, then his schooling, and then gives us a timeline of who he has written for and concluded with who he writes for the most and that he likes to be in isolation.

“I write mostly for The Weekly Standard and for World Affairs (not a magazine about Bill Clinton’s trips overseas). And Garden and Gun (which is the best title for a publication ever) has promised that it really will let me write “Chainsaw Gardening.”

I live with my wife and three children in rural New Hampshire because—because no one else wants to. The other day I was mentioning to my wife that Perth, Australia, is the place where people live that is farthest away from any other place that people live. “And the reason we don’t live there,” said my wife, “is the weather’s too nice.” – P.J. O’Rourke’s Website’s “P.J.’s Own Bio”

Here is a timeline of what he has done, in his words, from his website.

“In the early 1970s, I worked for various “underground” newspapers and, for a while, edited one in Baltimore called Harry. It was an embarrassing name, but it was an embarrassing era.

In 1973 I went to work for the National Lampoon, becoming managing editor in 1976 and editor in chief in 1978.

In 1981 I worked on Rodney Dangerfield’s first movie, Easy Money. I swear that when my co-writers and I handed in the script it had an ending. Michael Kinsley, then editor of Harper’s, sent me on a trip to the Soviet Union in 1982. I decided to become a foreign correspondent. Foreigners are funny and do my work for me.

From 1985 to 2000 I was Rolling Stone’s foreign affairs desk chief (and all of the indians). I reported from something like fifty countries and covered a dozen or more wars, rebellions, uprisings, and armed assings around.

There was also a lot of freelance work, for Car & Driver, Automobile, The American Spectator, Forbes FYI, Playboy, even House and Garden. (I had a crush on the articles editor, and she promised that someday she’d let me write an article on chainsaw gardening.)

In 2000 Mike Kelly, editor of The Atlantic, called and said, “I can pay you less.” Mike, who was one of the best, was killed in the assault on the Baghdad airport in 2003.” – P.J. O’Rourke’s Website’s “P.J.’s Own Bio”

I could not tell you what qualifies him to write a book on etiquette besides he’s written some before. He’s gone to several different foreign countries and probably saw cultural differences there. That may have sparked an interest in him to watch American society and then write a book on how we behave with one another.

I believe that his purpose to write this book is to show how dumb manners are. This book isn’t all satire but a lot of it is. There are a lot of things not to agree with and things that you obviously shouldn’t do, but there are parts that make you think and even highly consider.

What I’ve come to ask myself is what even are manners? So, what if you’re rude. Does any of that really matter in the end?

I think what P.J. O’Rouke was trying to accomplish here was to shine a new light on the modern ways of etiquette. Instead of blindly following old tradition we don’t understand or following the trend of something we barely understand. I think he wants us to think for ourselves and be more aware of our actions.

I honestly believe that because just reading his writing, his biography, and even what he has to say about some of his books. He’s a person who doesn’t care what others should do, but you should be aware of what you are doing.

He is not emotionally involved in his book. I do know that he doesn’t like technology and that the world would be better off without it and because of that, I think he wrote Modern Manners by being objective, to observe people and write the facts from what he saw and from what he knows.

My immediate reaction after I read the introduction was I love this man because of how he writes. It was just funny and true. Some parts made me stop and think, but as I kept reading, I kept laughing. There was at least something on each page that I had read and needed to share with other people.

I rate this 5 out of 5 stars and would read again. I would also 110% recommend to anyone to read for any reason and because of this novel I would happily read P.J. O’Rouke other books.