Atlantic Monthly Press
Atlantic Monthly Press
Atlantic Monthly Press

Age and Guile Beat Youth, Innocence, and a Bad Haircut

by P. J. O’Rourke

“From the fictionalized accounts of his career as a hard-drinking hippie to the Benchley-in-the-age-of-macho lampoon of fly fishing, Mr. o’Rourke shows an incorrigible comic gift and an eye for detail that keeps the wild stuff grounded.” –Robert Christgau, The New York Times Book Review

  • Imprint Atlantic Monthly Press
  • Page Count 368
  • Publication Date September 16, 1996
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8711-3653-4
  • Dimensions 6" x 9"
  • US List Price $13.50

About The Book

“No time left for pamphleting and leafleting, picketing and petitioning, talking and walking around. Time to TRASH THE STATE!” Abbie Hoffman? Huey Newton? No, it’s P.J. o’Rourke, circa 1970. Now America’s most provocative (and conservative) satirist”the author of the national best-sellers Parliament of Whores, Give War a Chance, and All the Trouble in the World“o’Rourke was at one time a raving pinko, with the scab on his bleeding heart to prove it. Through twenty-five years of his writing, Age and Guile Beat Youth, Innocence, and a Bad Haircut guides us on the journey that has taken o’Rourke from the lighthearted fun of revolutionary barricades to the serious business of the nineteenth hole.

How did the o’Rourke of 1970, who summarized the world of “grown-ups’ as ‘materialism, sexual hang-ups, the Republican party, uncomfortable clothes, engagement rings, car accidents, Pat Boone, competition, patriotism, cheating, lying, ranch houses, TV, and suicide,” become the o’Rourke of the “90s, who threatens to aim his shotgun at any revival of the “60s? How did a self-described “nightmare of the bourgeoisie,” whose greatest desire was to destroy “individualist property, selfish values, hateful concepts,” end up in a suit and tie, behind a lectern, insisting that “Communists worship Satan, Socialists think perdition is a good system run by bad men, and liberals want us all to go to hell because it’s warm there in the winter”?

Age and Guile Beat Youth, Innocence, and a Bad Haircut traces the development, from hippie protester to conservative grouch, of America’s premier political humorist. Along the way, we are privy to his strange, twisted days as editor in chief of National Lampoon, his numerous essays on the pleasures and perils of driving (P.J. has been named ‘designated knee-walker” on many festive road trips), as well as his in-depth looks at appropriate sports for middle-aged Republicans, namely those which can be engaged in with a smuggled Havana between the teeth”fly-fishing, bird hunting, deep-sea fishing, and, of course, golf.

For readers unfamiliar with o’Rourke’s humor, here are essays directed against all of his favorite targets, and even some he doesn’t like much; for those who are already fans, this book consists entirely of previously uncollected material. Age and Guilt Beat Youth, Innocence, and a Bad Haircut is crucial reading, whether one’s goal is to bring down the Establishment through protest and political action or merely to undermine it by spending the entire work day locked in your corporate office, taking nips from a flask and practicing your long putts.


“From the fictionalized accounts of his career as a hard-drinking hippie to the Benchley-in-the-age-of-macho lampoon of fly fishing, Mr. o’Rourke shows an incorrigible comic gift and an eye for detail that keeps the wild stuff grounded.” –Robert Christgau, The New York Times Book Review

“It’s fun to watch o’Rourke mature as a writer even as he becomes an angry conservative.” –Patricia Holt, San Francisco Chronicle

“Not everyone will view o’Rourke’s political transformation as progress, but there can be little doubt about his development as a writer. These examples from 25 years of writing provide convincing evidence that age and guile do indeed beat youth, innocence and a bad haircut.” –James D. Fairbanks, Houston Chronicle


Why I Invaded Cambodia

by Richard Milhous Nixon(as told to P. J. o’Rourke)

Harry, June 1970

AUTHOR’s NOTE: Richard Nixon did indeed go out at some ungodly hour to speak to antiwar demonstrators in Washington. According to an article by Robert B. Semple, Jr., in the May 10, 1970, New York Times:
President Nixon left the White House shortly before dawn this morning, drove to the Lincoln Memorial, and spent an hour chatting with young people who had come to protest his war policies.
The extraordinary visit, which caught his staff unawares and left the Secret Service “petrified,” was Mr. Nixon’s first direct exchange with students massed here for a weekend of protest.
As he stood on the steps of the memorial and talked, the crowd around him grew from eight to thirty to fifty, and near the end of what appears to have been more monologue than dialogue, he asked the students “to try to understand what we are doing.

To understand where I’m at you’ve got to dig it that I’ve been into this very heavy political thing for a long time. In some ways this has done strange things to my head. But I’ve always felt that when you’re really into something you shouldn’t cop out on it. To be really out front, I get off on ego trips, power games. It’s a speed-freak sort of trip, I admit it. But, like, that’s where I’m at”. I mean you can put me down for kicking your ass but don’t put me down for being an asskicker “cause that’s my movie. That’s cool, I got to do my thing. I just want to make that perfectly clear.
I’d always been sort of into this kind of riff, but I never meant to get as strung-out on it as I am now. It was in “52; I was out on the coast to get my head together when Ike calls me on the phone. ‘dickey,” he said, “you won’t believe the job offer I have.”
“Tell me,” I said.
‘dickey,” he said, “they’re going to make me president.”
“Far fucking out!” I said, but he sounded troubled.
‘dickey,” he said, “I’m troubled.”
“What’s the matter, Ike,” I said.
‘dickey,” he said, “if someone were to find out, Time magazine or someone, that all these years Mamie’s been in drag “” I told him about the operations in Sweden. I guess Ike could see I had my head together about politics, because several days later he calls again and asks me to be vice president. I told him I wasn’t up for that; I was just ready to split for Mexico City with Jack and Alan and Neil. But he came on strong and vibed me out about the whole thing–I’ve been into it ever since.
So like one thing led to another and I got to be president myself. Now being president is a really heavy thing. It’s like being a very big dealer, like doing deals for five or six hundred kilos every day–guns out on the table and briefcases full of hundred-dollar bills. You have to deal with really heavy cats. This redneck that held the job before me had some fucked-up war going down. First thing I did was I called up the Pentagon and said, “This is the president, off that shit! I want everybody back in California by Friday night.” Fifteen minutes later the chairman of the board from GM walks in with this weird cat in a sharkskin suit and sunglasses.
Well, there’s a time to stand and fight and a time to cut and run. Being president is a bummer.
Not only heavy cats like that to hassle with all the time, but for a vice president I get a Yippie infiltrator who runs around the country saying the most outrageous possible things–trying to discredit the entire government.
I was really getting freaked out. All these frustrations and anxieties building–bad vibes. Like the Supreme Court. The whole country’s making an ass of itself, pasting up American flags everywhere, shooting kids and spades, saying things like, “Leave loose the dogs of war!” So I figure they must want a Nazi for their Supreme Court. Give them what they want, I say. Two Nazis I give them, but no, no, they don’t want Nazis; they want a liberal. A Liberal! There are only eleven liberals left in the United States. I had a hell of a time.
Like I said, when I first got into this trip I couldn’t dig the war. But then I started getting to know Westmoreland and his buddies. They’d be walking up and down Pennsylvania Avenue wearing their colors and looking really bad. We got close. They’re good guys once you can dig where they’re at. I started going out on runs with them in their choppers, drinking beer. When I got behind it I understood they aren’t really violent. They’re for peace love and everything; they just like to stomp gooks. They gave me a set of honorary colors–a cutoff Eisenhower jacket with script lettering in an arch across the back saying, “JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF” with “USA” down at the bottom and a big mushroom cloud in between. I’d got very tight with Westmoreland, Wes the Axe, so I laid it on him about the vice president and all that shit. Wes said, “Yeah, you got to be a badass in this world or you just ain’t gonna make it.” I thought about that, and when I found out Cambodia was hiding those gook Viet Cong I said to myself, “I’m gonna trash that country!” Jesus, I never thought anybody’d get all that uptight about it. But soon as I told Wes to do a number on the Cong the shit really hit the fan. I felt bad about it. I really did. First thing you know there are thousands of people planning to gather outside my house to vamp on me about it. Night before they were all to come I dropped a tab of sunshine and thought it over. I went through some weird changes. Early in the morning, when I was coming down, I decided to go outside and rap on it. Hardly anybody was there and I had to wake this cat up to find somebody to rap to. “Wake up,” I said. “I’m the president. Wanna do some boo?”
“Oh, yeah, far out, hey, Fat Freddy, wake up, it’s the president.”
“No, no, their president.”
“Oh, yeah, far out,” said Fat Freddy. So they got up and blew some of my dynamite Laotian shit, and I sniffed some coke they had and laid it on them what I said here.
“Wow, man,” said the first. “Where’s your head at?” He told me my thing is really bad karma. That I’d be reincarnated as a Gila monster. I could dig what they were saying. That’s the way people should be with each other, really out front. This is what America’s about.