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P.J. O'Rourke takes aim at obits

June 2, 2010 | 11:37 am

Pj ... as only he can do. In an essay for the Weekly Standard, the inimitable satirist offers this suggestion for saving the struggling newspaper industry:

What I propose is "Pre-Obituaries" — official notices that certain people aren’t dead yet accompanied by brief summaries of their lives indicating why we wish they were.

The main advantage of the Pre-Obit over the traditional obituary is the knowledge of reader and writer alike that the as-good-as-dead people are still around to have their feelings hurt. It was a travesty of literary justice that we waited until J. D. Salinger finally hit the delete key at 91 before admitting that Catcher in the Rye stinks. The book’s only virtue is that it captures, with annoying accuracy, the maunderings of a twerp. The book’s only pleasure is in slamming the cover shut — simpler than slamming the door shut on a real Holden Caulfield, if less satisfying. The rest of Salinger’s published oeuvre was precious or boring or both. But we felt constrained to delay saying so, perhaps because of an outdated Victorian hope for a death-bed flash of genius.

Click here to read about his nominees for such Pre-Obits.

And in case you're unfamiliar with O'Rourke, here's how he explained his brand of humor in the new book "Satiristas!: Comedians, Contrarians, Raconteurs & Vulgarians" by Paul Provenza and Dan Dion, which was featured in The Times a few weeks ago:

That's the thing I've always loved about humor, that there's a strong element of irresponsibility to it. Our job is to be irresponsible. My job is to turn on the lights in the dirty kitchen and watch the roaches scurry, which is fun. It's not my job to step on them; it's not my job to put Borax in the cupboards. I just turn on the lights and watch them scurry.

You're never going to do a show for the Black Panthers that gets them to kiss and make up with the Aryan Brotherhood; we're just comedians, we're not miracle workers. But it's not like we're completely useless when it comes to decency or making people think about stuff.

-- Claire Noland

Photo: P.J. O'Rourke. Credit: Dan Dion / HarperCollins