Wikipedia says that television show 60 Minutes says that The Penguin Dictionary of Modern Humorous Quotations shows that P.J. O’Rourke is the most quoted living man between their covers. So I’m going to quote Mr. O’Rourke and then use the power of the blog for the riposte.
In chapter one, “The Death of Communism,” of his 1992 book Give War a Chance, Mr. O’Rourke crows “A huge totalitarian system with all its tanks and guns, gulag camps and secret police has been brought to its knees because nobody wants to wear Bulgarian shoes.”
I do not disagree that communist goods and services left an incalculable amount to be desired, and the desire for good quality belongings played a not insignificant role in communism’s demise in Eastern Europe. But I thought I might interest Mr. O’Rourke in an update on the Eastern [Shoe] Front. I have four pairs of Bulgarian shoes. Not just purchased in Bulgaria, but произведено в България (made in Bulgaria). Actually two pairs of high boots and two pairs of low heels. Admittedly they need polishing, but that’s my fault and shows how much I wear and love them.
I get compliments on them from Americans wearing shoes “made in China.”
Here’s another quote from the same chapter of the same book by the same Mr. O’Rourke: “For all the meddling the Communist bloc countries have done in banana republics, they still never seem to be able to get their hands on any actual bananas.” A cogent, funny observation and so true. Even in 1991, I remember see a long line of people waiting to get their hands on some really brown and unappealing bananas while several American missionaries capitalized (a pun, as it were) on their captive audience to “bring god to the Bulgarians,” who have been a largely Christian nation since the year 864. Now bananas are in every little corner market and are eaten on a regular basis without exciting any comment—or American missionaries at the cash register—whatsoever.
I’m writing a travel memoir about Bulgaria. Mr. O’Rourke, would you be willing to read my manuscript? I promise to give you permission to quote me as you see fit.