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Eat the Rich
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Having chewed up and spat out the politically correct (All the Troubles in the World) and the U.S. government (Parliament of Whores), O'Rourke takes a more global tack. Here, he combines something of Michael Palin's Pole to Pole, a soupçon of Swift's A Modest Proposal and Keynsian garnish in an effort to find out why some places are "prosperous and thriving while others just suck." Stymied by the "puerile and impenetrable" prose of condescending college texts, O'Rourke set forth on a two-year worldwide tour of economic practice (or mal-). He begins amid the "moil and tumult" of Wall Street ("Good Capitalism") before turning to dirt-poor Albania, where, in an example of "Bad Capitalism," free market is the freedom to gamble stupidly. "Good Socialism" (Sweden) and "Bad Socialism" (Cuba) are followed by O'Rourke's always perverse but often perversely accurate take on Econ 101 ("microeconomics is about money you don't have, and macroeconomics is about money the government is out of"). Four subsequent chapters reportedly offer case studies of economic principles, except that Russia, Tanzania, Hong Kong and Shanghai all seem to prove that economic theory is just that. There's lots of trademark O'Rourke humor ("you can puke on the train," he says of a trip through Russia, "you can cook tripe on alcohol stoves and make reeking picnics of smoked fish and goat cheese, but you can't smoke"). There's also the feeling that despite (or maybe because of) his lack of credentials, he's often right. O'Rourke proves that money can be funny without being counterfeit. 150,000 first printing; $150,000 ad/promo; 26-city author tour. (Sept.) FYI: Also available as a Random House audio, $18 ISBN 0-375-40482-1

In his latest, humorist O'Rourke (The Enemies List, LJ 4/15/96) sets out to explain economics, a discipline he says is little understood because it is (a) complex and (b) boring. As if to prove these points, when O'Rourke, normally a funny guy, goes nose-to-nose with hard-core economics things get complicated and, well, a little boring. He atones, though, with loopy observations about some of the have and have-not countries he visited in his research for the book. On Russia's similarity to the United States: "To an American used to cute, fussy little Western Europe, Russia is like mail from home. News that your dog died, maybe, but news from home nevertheless." And on Tanzanian wildlife: "The Cape Buffalo is just a cow, but a gigantic and furious one‘the bovine as superhero, the thing that fantasizing Herefords wish would burst upon the scene between feed lot and Wendy's." Dull patches aside, this is not your father's economics text‘it's way more fun. Recommended for all public libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 4/1/98.]‘Jim G. Burns, Ottumwa, IA

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