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Rick Robinson: PJ O'Rourke, Voice of a (Dysfunctional) Generation

This column is written by Rick Robinson, a Northern Kentucky-based author and attorney. It originally appeared at RARE.

That P.J. O’Rourke has earned the title “Voice of the Baby Boomers” should speak to how we, as a generation, are so damn dysfunctional. The former writer for the underground newspaper Puddles (I’m told he also wrote some stuff for National Lampoon and Rolling Stone) has released his latest book The Baby Boom – How it got that Way – And it wasn’t my Fault – And I’ll Never Do It Again (Atlantic Monthly Press). It is a brilliant autobiographical tribute to aging as seen through the eyes of our own Post-World War II Everyman.

It should be noted that we Baby Boomers like to write about ourselves. I did it in my novel, Alligator Alley. Pat Conroy has done it in every word he has ever put on paper, but no more so than in his recent Death of Santini. And P.J. does it extraordinarily well in Baby Boom.

P.J. would probably argue that Boomers are fixated on self because our generation was the era of big thoughts. “And yet, amazingly each of those thoughts could fit on a T-shirt.”

I’ll leave it to my kids to determine if we’re a generation of big thinkers or simply narcissistic. After seeing a photo of myself on Facebook recently and immediately thinking someone had posted a picture of my Dad, I think we have just become our parents. We go on-and-on about Frat parties like my Pop used to tell stories about sailing victoriously into Tokyo Bay on VJ Day. But, I digress.

Baby Boom is P.J.’s autobiography, but against a historical backdrop to which all us Boomers relate. Baby Boom is our generation’s On the Road, except with the Vietnam War, cooler music, and better pot.

In recent P.J. O’Rourke books, the reader needed a highlighter and note pad to keep up. Baby Boom finds P.J. in his old National Lampoon-style (where he landed after the Balto-Cong forced Puddles off the street) telling stories that make us laugh out loud (that’s LOL for anyone under the age of 25), reminisce about our youth and occasionally get the point. Instead of re-reading paragraphs to understand P.J.’s philosophical point, I’m re-reading all of Baby Boom – for fun.

P.J. recalls his youth in happy, funny terms. I mentioned Conroy’s Death of Santini above because I read it just before picking up Baby Boom.  I’m glad I read them in that order. While riveting, I needed a laugh – and two sessions of psychotherapy – after reading Death of Santini.  Born in 1945, Conroy missed being a Boomer by less than a year. Would Prince of Tides have been a happy book if the Great Santini had waited a year to start having kids?

The conclusion that P.J. reaches in his book is that Baby Boomers can be theologically categorized as “antinomian” of which he aids by building upon the definition:

Antinomianism is the belief that faith (the Baby Boom has a lot of faith – in itself) and grace (the Baby Boom has been graced with a lot of good things) that allow men (and, let us hasten to add, women) to be (according to Webster’s Third International) freed not only from the Old Testament law of Moses and all forms of legalism but also from all law including the generally accepted standards of morality prevailing in any given culture. That’s us in a nutshell.

The people we screamed never to trust because they were over thirty have either died from following the rules we swore would kill them or in assisted care living laughing their asses off about how badly we’ve screwed things up.

Check out Rick Robinson's books -- many of which feature plenty of Northern Kentucky flavor inside the political thrillers -- here: Rick Robinson