December 21, 2011

"Nature's Tory"

In Taki's Magazine, I offer an assessment, mostly appreciative, of Christopher Hitchens' literary criticism:
There wouldn’t seem to be much left to say about the late Christopher Hitchens after the countless tributes paid by other journalists about the night (or afternoon or morning) they got drunk with Hitch. Still, I want to call admiring attention to his taste in English literature. 
Unable to boast of having downed a few with Hitchens myself, I tended to find much of his voluminous output over the last decade reminiscent of the legendary Private Eye reporter Phil Space. Yet in at least one venue, Hitchens demonstrated distinction. Just before 9/11, Benjamin Schwarz hired Hitchens to write a long monthly literary column for The Atlantic that showcased Hitchens’s combination of panache, pedantry, and lifelong conservatism. 

Read the whole thing there.


Alcalde Jaime Miguel Curleo said...

Weird column that says more about its author than the room-temp Hitchens brother. You must have been receiving a different edition of the magazine; mine had overlong essays about George Eliot, Samuel Johnson, Mark Twain, Koestler--all great prep for appearing on Morning Joe or O'Reilly's Factor no doubt. Since you seemingly chalk those up as "middlebrow" would J.R.R. Tolkien and Flannery O'Connor be paleobrow

The Neutralist said...

Ah celebrity deaths. Two this week. You know, I never got to have a drink with Hitch either. Of course it is all too possible that I did and was to drunk to remember, but he would have been as well. We did not travel in the same cities, let alone the same circles.

Of the big shots, let me go out on a limb. Kim Jong Il was no Christopher Hitchens.

I know, Lloyd Bentsen would have phrased it better.

Harmonious Jim said...

Steve nails it again with this column. Hitchens, like Orwell, was conservative in most things except politics.

Antioco Dascalon said...

What's Havel? Chopped liver? He was a far better man than Kim, of course, but also than Hitchens. It is a shame that his death was sandwiched between those two and he didn't get the recognition that he deserved.
I visited the prison cell that he was in in Prague (it's now a hotel). Havel was inspirational and a modern day saint. He was a leader of a country, like Kim Jong Il and a writer like Hitchens, but was an ideological opponent to the former and the superior talent to the latter.
It is a black mark on the Nobel committee that Obama has a Peace Prize and Havel does not.

Anonymous said...

"Hitchens, like Orwell, was conservative in most things except politics."

I dunno. Liberals are more likely to read books--any kind of books--than conservatives.

Anonymous said...

One thing Hitch and Kim had in common. They both did themselves in by having too much of a good time.

Dan H said...

Good grief, Steve, are you retarded or were you trying to honor Hitchens by writing an essay while drunk?


The Tory ethics can be summed up with the phrase 'God, King and Country'.

Hitchens actively rooted for the other team during the Cold War as it pursued the destruction of the West, presumably because he thought that meant the triumph of his beloved Atheism. His brother Peter quotes him as saying, "I don't care if the Red Army watered its horses at Hendon".

Well lets see, that is zero-for-three on the whole Tory thing. No God, no King, no Country. How is your math looking, Steve?

Anonymous said...

The penalties for the mythical crime of predatory lending are severe

Lucius said...

Camille Paglia did him as much justice as he'll get when she denounced "God is not Great" as a terrific title, lousy book. She condemned his lack of research as well as his lack of instinctive sensitivity to the religious impulse. Atheist that she is, she demands some kind of feel for these things.

While not mentioning Feuerbach, I think that's the kind of implicit standard she's talking about. Hitchens didn't write a Feuerbach, or a Hume, book. But why should we think he had that in him?

All fair enough. But I don't understand the "middlebrow" twist of the knife in this review. The very idea of journalists reading The Faerie Queene is pretty comic, no? (& I do recall Hitchens once slamming pundits who never read Plato or Machiavelli for traducing Wolfowitz, as though they could claim intellectual parity). I don't think Hitchens cared only for the company or praise of journalists. There's somehow here an insinuation that Waugh is classy airport reading, just to sneak in a blow to Hitchens, when we're told up front there will be kind things to be said.

Really good essayists-- short of Bacon, Johnson, or Hume anyway-- may not truly write for the ages, but they can be darn good. Hitchens will not be canonical; but for all his faults, I don't think time spent with some of his choicer words is wasted.

Anonymous said...

awww yes, hitchens defending the commanding intellects of his neocon friends.

"Larry King asked Miller if she'd be listening to Chalabi's lecture at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York and she said she'd be giving her own talk in DC. Chalabi's popping up everywhere. Kris Lofgren attended Ahmed Chalabi's lecture at the American Enterprise Institute in midweek, and reports a starry-eyed Hitchens claiming on the way out after the lecture that Chalabi could have broken American intelligence codes himself, because "he is a mathematical genius" and "his expertise is cryptology". This is silly says CounterPuncher Assaf Kfoury who got a PhD from MIT, 1972, and overlapped with Chalabi's years there. "Chalabi was not a mathematical genius. Basically MIT, which awarded him a Master's degree, didn't want to keep him for a PhD. And Chalabi didn't do his thesis in anything remotely connected to cryptology. His at the University of Chicago was on the theory of knots."

remember chalabi? hitchens took great pride in his withering skepticism but he was laughably easy prey for intellectual lightweights like wolfowitz and anyone else hitchens saw as being on his "side."

Anonymous said...

Accidentally read that as "panache, pederasty, and..." ...wait, what!?

Nanonymous said...

What's Havel? Chopped liver? He was a far better man than Kim, of course, but also than Hitchens.

Vaclav "The Humanitarian Bombing" Havel? Go back to 1999 and check out his enthusiastic support for bombing the shit out of Serbia. Rotten schnitzel is more like it.

FredR said...

Hitchens came right after a generation of English writers who were famously "bored by The Faerie Queene," and I don't get the feeling his generation of writers (McEwan, Martin Amis, Salman Rushdie) were very different.

syon said...

Frankly, Hitch's lit crit bored me to tears; he always seemed more eager to pad out the piece with personal anecdotes (perhaps the key vice of British journos) that would somehow vaguely link up with the subject at hand. E.g., his article on Borges, where he spent an inordinate amount of time talking about his meeting with the great man and reciting HARP SONG OF THE DANE WOMEN.

RE: Ian Fleming,
I would hardly say that Hitch was laudatory; in fact, he spent most of his time slamming Fleming's books.

Londoner said...

Hitchens wanted to be Eric Blair, but in choosing to sell his soul to the neocons he ended up aping a different Blair entirely.

Still, some credit is due for liking Kipling, possibly the greatest English-language poet of the last 100 years.

Bob Conquest is still with us, although very ancient now.

gummy said...

Stalin had pretty conservative tastes in art too. So, was he "nature's Tsarist"?

comfortably gumb said...

Hitchens is Nature's Tory.

Rowling is also a closet-con according to Sailer.

And Sailer regards Cameron as Powerful White Man. (Never mind Cameron uses his power against white people.)

With cons(closet or natural)like these, who needs libs?

It seems to be cons wanna fool themselves thus because there are many more artists and intellectuals on the left. Since cons cannot politically claim then, they try to claim them 'culturally'.

True, people are complex enough to be more than one thing. But Hitchens was hardly exceptional as an elitist leftist. Trotsky and Lenin came from privileged backgrounds, and their cultural tastes tended to be more conventional than avant-garde. I don't know what this proves.

I heard Buckley was a pot smoker. So, was Nature's Hippie?

Amusing as it is, I prefer Athena-like Bigelow to Hitchens as some loopy con.

Anonymous said...

"Hitchens wanted to be Eric Blair"

But at least he agreed with TONY Blair on Iraq.

poultry inspector said...

Finnegans Wake (the novel title) has no apostrophe in it.

gumbus said...

"Finnegans Wake (the novel title) has no apostrophe in it."

Does it matter? The whole book doesn't follow any grammatical rules. I read the first page and my head hurt.
Anthony Burgess's 99 NOVELS gives a kind of summary, but I don't know how anyone could have figured it out.

Reg Cæsar said...

Finnegans Wake (the novel title) has no apostrophe in it.

Perhaps because "wake" is a verb, in the third-person plural.

In Finnegan's Wake, the song, it's a noun.

Kim Jong Il was no Christopher Hitchens. I know, Lloyd Bentsen would have phrased it better. --Mr Moroco

Quayle should have retorted, "I remember LBJ... and you are LBJ."

Anonymous said...

I believe you have the man summed up about right, Sir. But my not-very-well-read son reveres the late Mr Hitchens for his strident atheism.
Gilbert Pinfold.

Kylie said...

"Liberals are more likely to read books--any kind of books--than conservatives."

I guess that explains the ubiquity and abundance of Harlequin romance novels and Louis L'Amour westerns.

Anonymous said...

Maybe Hitchens was popular because he wrote in language most people could understand when much of the intellectual left ended up producing stuff like this:

"The move from a structuralist account in which capital is understood to structure social relations in relatively homologous ways to a view of hegemony in which power relations are subject to repetition, convergence, and rearticulation brought the question of temporality into the thinking of structure, and marked a shift from a form of Althusserian theory that takes structural totalities as theoretical objects to one in which the insights into the contingent possibility of structure inaugurate a renewed conception of hegemony as bound up with the contingent sites and strategies of the rearticulation of power."

gumbi said...

Robert Conquest on the possibility of Russian Spring.

gumb said...

How many Mexican-American immigrants do stuff like this?

ibmug said...

Is it true that Gilligan's Island is cross between Gulliver's Travels and Finnegans Wake?

Anonymous said...

That's a lot of wars.