I first read Christopher Hitchens in college, when I was gifted a copy of The Trial of Henry Kissinger. This was in the post-9/11, Bush Administration days when I was reading books like Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States, marching in rallies, and attending lectures like the one where I picked up a large, yellow, homemade button reading I KNOW KISSINGER IS A CRIMINAL and quickly pinned it to my messenger bag. The childhood naiveté I had recently shed left me vulnerable to Hitchens’ moral confidence and chilled outrage, and I adopted a more adult naiveté, where solutions took the form of boycotting logos, starting zines, going to poetry readings in campus common rooms and calling on the Hague to bring a former American official to trial on war crimes.
My affinity didn’t last. Hitchens had a book out about how Mother Teresa was some kind of monster. This seemed odd, but not damning. My greater concern was Hitchens’ great complaints about Bill Clinton — which I actually could have accepted had they not been followed by his support of George W. Bush, a man who couldn’t match Clinton in competence, intelligence, or even folksiness. And yet here was Hitch, mobilizing a mind fortified by philosophy, history, literature and poetry to defend a dangerously incurious and incompetent president. I gave Hitch’s line on Iraq no quarter because it coincided with the Bush line, and ultimately concluded that Hitchens was someone who didn’t mind a few thousand people dying if it meant that we could forcibly shove The Enlightenment into new acreage. Continue reading
I FINALLY GOT BURNED by Christopher Hitchens.
I’ve been able to stomach some of the Iraq justifications, and even kind of look past the “women aren’t funny” thing. But this one, from a final piece for Vanity Fair about Charles Dickens, is tough:
Opening his own memoir, the most inept fictional narrator of my generation showed that he was out of his depth by dismissing “all that David Copperfield kind of crap.” Mr. Holden Caulfield may one day be forgotten, but the man who stumbled across the little boy trapped in the sweatshop basement, and realized their kinship, will never be.
If you didn’t know, I’m kind of a fan of Holden Caulfield. I’m confident there are any number of more inept fictional narrators from Hitchens’ generation. And apparently Hitch never saw this pulp-style cover for “The Catcher in the Rye” guaranteeing that “you will never forget it.”
Let’s also note that in this same piece, he refers to Christmas as a “protracted obligatory celebration now darkening our Decembers.” If that gives you a better sense of where he’s coming from.
All that aside, the rest of the Hitchens piece is worth reading.
And, in the fashion of one of the
most inept greatest fictional narrators of Hitchens’ anyone’s generation, I can’t help, as I tell you this, but miss the guy a little bit.
The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach
For those who enjoy baseball and disappointment, i.e. Mets fans; may also dull pain for Braves and Sox fans
Status: Bookstores will trade it to you for money.
OVER AT FICTION ADVOCATE, Paul Gasbarra takes on the latest and most hyped book to emerge from the n+1 brain trust. The novel is so hot right now it already has its own authorized biography, Vanity Fair’s e-book about how, at a time when America needed a hero, a broke writer named Chad Harbach stunned everyone and got a major payout to put “The Art of Fielding” into print.
With the presence of teams like the Tampa Bay Rays — the suburban strip mall of baseball franchises — assured in the playoffs this year, “Fielding” may be your best bet for diamond action in the coming month. But there is definitely more to the book than baseball.
But the writer still has ample opportunity to finesse the action through revision. In the split second it takes to throw a ball, there can be no deliberation. In fact, Skrimshander’s failures on the field stem directly from his thinking versus acting. It’s interesting to note that we expect much from our authors because they get an opportunity to edit and hone their works, but we expect even more excellence from athletes, who get no opportunity for revision.
Read the full review.