PJ O’Rourke dies aged 74: author and commentator known for gonzo journalism of 1960s

The cause of death has not been announced, but the writer and satirist had been ill in recent months

American satirist PJ O'Rourke has died aged 74. AP Photo
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PJ O’Rourke, the author and satirist who refashioned the gonzo journalism of 1960s counterculture into a distinctive brand of conservative and libertarian commentary, has died aged 74.

O’Rourke died on Tuesday morning, according to Grove Atlantic, Inc publisher and president Morgan Entrekin.

He did not cite a specific cause, but said the author had been ill in recent months.

O’Rourke, who was from Toledo in Ohio, evolved from long-haired student activist to wavy-haired scourge of his old liberal ideals, with some of his more widely read takedowns appearing in counterculture publication, Rolling Stone.

His career otherwise extended from the early years of National Lampoon to a brief stint on 60 Minutes, in which he represented the conservative take on Point/Counterpoint, to frequent appearances on NPR’s game show Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!.

His writing style suggested a cross between the hedonism of Hunter S Thompson and the patrician mockery of Tom Wolfe: self-importance was a reliable target.

But his greatest disdain was often for the government — not just a specific administration, but government itself and what he called “the silken threads of entitlement spending”.

In a 2018 column for a venerable conservative publication, The Weekly Standard, he looked on with scorn at Washington’s gentrification.

“People are flocking to the seat of government power. One would say ‘dogs returning to their vomit’ except that’s too hard on dogs. Too hard on people, also. They come to Washington because they have no choice — diligent working breeds compelled to eat their regurgitated tax dollars,” he wrote.

O’Rourke’s books included the bestsellers None of My Business and A Cry From The Middle: Dispatches from a Divided Land.

Updated: May 10, 2023, 9:21 AM