I’ve been waiting for someone to ask me, “Jay, just who would you say are your biggest influences in your writing?” No one has yet, and I’m sick of waiting.
Traditionally (wow, blogs have been around long enough to develop traditions!), bloggers have been loosely divided into two camps: “thinkers” and “linkers.” The finest examplars of these two schools of thought are Glenn Reynolds, the Instapundit (whose power to draw attention on postings forced the creation of the term “Instalanche”), and the amazing (and now apparently semi-retired) Steven Den Beste, of USS Clueless.
(In Den Beste’s absence, there is no clear successor, but Wretchard of The Belmont Club is probably the most highly regarded “thinker” around.)
I’ve always thought of myself as more of a “thinker” than a “linker.” That’s partly out of laziness; I have plenty of time to think during the day, but linking requires me to take the effort to go out and find interesting stuff to report.
But I’d have to say the writer I most admire would have to be P. J. O’Rourke. Not only is P. J. one of those most rara of avis — a conservative humorist who is actually FUNNY — but he does his homework and knows his stuff. And man, he knows how to write a title. My “In Praise of Civilian Casualties” was inspired by O’Rourke, who comes up with incredibly outrageous (but accurate) titles for his books.
His discussion of how the United States governent works? “Parliament Of Whores.” Economics? “Eat The Rich.” The modern anti-war movement? “Peace Kills.” International diplomacy? “Give War A Chance.” The big crises (poverty, famine, homelessness, plague): “All The Trouble In The World.”
He also has a respectable pedigree. P. J. has worked for the National Lampoon, Rolling Stone, Car & Driver, Automobile, and ABC Radio, among others.
And it doesn’t hurt that he’s now a fellow resident of New Hampshire…
I think one of the finest things he ever wrote was in 1988’s “Holidays In Hell.” In it, he recounted an argument he had with some effete Europeans and, in my opinion, summed up just what it means to be an American. I’m sticking it in the extended section, though, because P.J. gets pretty vulgar and politically incorrect (but screamingly funny). But damn, he’s nails it. Every now and then, I re-read that section for affirmation.
Update: Professor Chaos, in the comments, wishes to assure us that not all members of academia are mindless, liberal drones, and that there people like Professor Chaos who have actually read and agreed with P. J. O’Rourke. Professor Chaos would also like Wizbang readers to go and visit his blog, but is too cheap to fork out for a real blogad, and instead Professor Chaos pimps his site in comments and begs for traffic to his site. I am shocked and appalled by this crass behavior by Professor Chaos, and wish to ask Professor Chaos from engaging in such behavior in the future. You might put up with such shenanigans over at your own site, Professor Chaos, such things will not be tolerated here at Wizbang.
(Update 2: apparently I am giving people the impression that I coined the phrase “thinkers and linkers.” It is NOT my devising. I think I first read it over on Den Beste’s site, but I could be wrong. I may not know who created it, but it was NOT me. I just wish it was.)
Back in London, I was having dinner in the Groucho Club — this week’s in-spot for what’s left of Britain’s lit gritz and nouveau rock riche — when one person started in on the Stars And Stripes. Eventually he got, as the Europeans always do, to the part about “your country’s never been invaded.” (This fellow had been two during the Blitz, you see.) “You don’t know the horror, the suffering. You think war is…”
“A John Wayne movie,” I said. That’s what you were going to say, wasn’t it? We think war is a John Wayne movie. We think life is a John Wayne movie — with good guys and bad guys, as simple as that. Well, you know something, Mister Limey Poofter? You’re right. And let me tell you who those bad guys are. They’re us. WE BE BAD.
We’re the baddest-ass sons of bitches that ever jogged in Reeboks. We’re three-quarters grizzly bear and two-thirds car wreck and descended from a stock market crash on our mother’s side. You take your Germany, France and Spain, roll them all together and it wouldn’t give us room to park our cars. We’re the big boys, Jack, the original, giant, economy-sized, new and improved butt kickers of all time. When we snort coke in Houston, people lose their hats in Cap D’Antibes. And we’ve got an American Express card credit limit higher than your piss-ant metric numbers go.
“You say our country’s never been invaded? You’re right, little buddy. Because I’d like to see the needle-dicked foreigners who’d have the guts to try. We drink napalm to get our hearts started in the morning. A rape and a mugging is our way of saying ‘Cheerio.’ Hell can’t hold our sock-hops. We walk taller, talk louder, spit further, fuck longer and buy more things than you know the names of. I’d rather be a junkie in a New York City jail than king, queen, and jack of all you Europeans. We eat little countries like this for breakfast and shit them out before lunch.”
Of course, the guy should have punched me. But this was Europe. He just smiled his shabby, superior European smile. (God, don’t these people have dentists?)