cover image Thrown Under the Omnibus: A Reader

Thrown Under the Omnibus: A Reader

P.J. O'Rourke. Atlantic Monthly, $30 (864p) ISBN 978-0-8021-2366-4

Too much of even a good thing can be tiring, as this overstuffed retrospective from the talented humorist O'Rourke (The Baby Boom) demonstrates. Surely, at some point during the compiling of this massive collection, someone must have suggested leaving out some weaker selections, such as a lighthearted essay comically referencing the Nazi use of cattle cars, or a dated ode to the bachelor life that's replete with seduction advice aimed at men who are%E2%80%94wait for it%E2%80%94too inept to wash their own clothes or shop for their own groceries. O'Rourke's breezy style can be fun, in short doses. His small essay "A Digression on Happiness" is bright and engaging. But his travel pieces tend to be simultaneously overlong and short on information, and his attempts to tackle big events%E2%80%94the fall of Soviet Communism; the 9/11 terrorist attacks%E2%80%94offer little that is new. An account of his cancer scare, "A Journey to... Let's Not Go There," is quietly affecting, but the other personal essays tend toward flippancy. At one point, O'Rourke mocks a more serious-minded author's work as weighing "more than a cinder block"%E2%80%94oddly, the book in question came in at 70 fewer pages than O'Rourke's. (Nov.)