Hitch-22: A Memoir
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Over the course of his 60 years, Christopher Hitchens has been a citizen of both the United States and the United Kingdom. He has been both a socialist opposed to the war in Vietnam and a supporter of the U.S. war against Islamic extremism in Iraq. He has been both a foreign correspondent in some of the world's most dangerous places and a legendary bon vivant with an unquenchable thirst for alcohol and literature. He is a fervent atheist, raised as a Christian, by a mother whose Jewish heritage was not revealed to him until her suicide.
In other words, Christopher Hitchens contains multitudes. He sees all sides of an argument. And he believes the personal is political.
This is the story of his life, lived large.
in the United States, the “S” was arguably surplus to requirements as well. But then the acronym AS would scarcely do, either. And it would raise an additional difficulty. If “Anglo-Saxon” descent was the qualifying thing, which surely it was, then why were George Wallace and Jerry Falwell not WASPs? After all, they were not merely white and Anglo-Saxon and Protestant, but very emphatic about all three things. Whereas a man like William F. Buckley, say, despite being a white Irish Catholic,
the headmaster that I was a good prospect for passing the entrance exam for Oxford: a statistic on which the school annually prided (and sold) itself. The same could be said of Guy, though he didn’t eventually make it. Accordingly, having been coldly exposed to public shame, we were allowed to “stay on” but forbidden to speak to each other. At the time, I vaguely but quite worriedly thought that this might have the effect of killing me. Yet there was something so stupid, as well as so intricate,
smell of both habits, which I suppose adds to the strong case that genetic predisposition plays a role in these addictions. But my tolerance for alcohol was very much greater than my father’s had been, greater indeed than anyone I seemed to run into. It wasn’t all that easy to get a reputation for boozing when you worked in and around old Fleet Street, where the hardened hands would spill more just getting the stuff to their lips than most people imbibe in a week, but I managed it. I still have
the London Blitz, “that was when we were all fighting that nasty Mrs. Hitler.” O’Toole’s favorite was a rejoinder she made when he’d described some ancient and absent member as a bit of a bore. “He was a very brave lady,” insisted Muriel, “in the First World War!” This Pythonesque drag queenery was all very well in its way, and it was nice to have a boozy hideaway in the afternoons and late evenings, but there were times when it all felt a bit thin and sketchy, and as with some pubs in Fleet
furiously refused to vote to keep Labour in office. To this day, I find, many habitual Labour supporters have succeeded in forgetting that shame. I was in the press gallery that night, and I remember thinking that it would be a long time before there was another Labour government, and that if it came to that I didn’t really care. Decades earlier, in some essays (boldly titled “Origins of the Present Crisis”) that had been one of the founding documents of the New Left, Perry Anderson and Tom