Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Humor Writers and Political Affiliation

There are four writers of somewhat similar style from my generation who came from Middle America and were liberals in the 1970’s. Two still are, the other two have become libertarian/conservative. The two who are still liberal came from deeper into the Midwest: Bill Bryson and Garrison Keillor (Iowa and rural Minnesota). The other two, PJ O’Rourke and Dave Barry, came from Ohio and western New York. I wonder if there is a deeper fear of being associated with rubes and yahoos that comes from it hitting closer to home. Bryson and Keillor have both lived in Europe and take more pains to show they can move with sophisticates, even when they laugh at themselves about it. O’Rouke and Barry have been more willing to embrace their yahooness. I prefer the latter two, by the way, while retaining some affection for the former.

There is a long literary tradition in America of young men writing about how benighted their childhood towns were in Middle America. We are formed by what we run from, perhaps. In our church, people come from a variety of church backgrounds. This is common in the Evangelical Covenant, a denomination somewhere between the mainstream and the evangelical, purposefully inclusive of both. In adult Sunday School classes, you can sense people still running from their Catholic, or fundamentalist, or social gospel pasts as often as you can sense them embracing those pasts.


Nicholas said...

I have only read a smattering of Barry, generally limited to his columns.

O'Rourke's books, though, are well worth the read.

In particular,
Parliament of Whores
Eat The Rich
Give War a Chance

should each be required reading for seniors in high school.

Sam L. said...

I met O'Rourke in the mid-'70s. I used to read Barry, but some years back I started not finding him less funny. I found Bryson spotty on humor; and Keillor lost me in the later '90s-early '00s. Seemed angry, and not funny. I think it was the politics.