In all the latest hoo-hah about Genpo Merzel - about which there isn't really nothing really new, just an acknowledgement of what's been going on for a while now - news came that Christopher Hitchens died. And so here's a blog post considering what that all might mean - as if it has to mean anything at all. It doesn't - but it's interesting to juxtapose unrelated things now and again.
I was one of those who applauded Hitchens lefty Trotskyite past, but was a bit startled when he attacked Clinton. To me it was obvious and strange and dangerous what was going on with the Clinton impeachment proceedings - it was an attempt to achieve by other means what could not have been achieved at the ballot box, even with the wildly rigged American rules favoring the wealthy. But given Hitchens' stance as one of Clinton's critics it didn't surprise me when he went gung ho for the Iraq war. (For the record, I too, was appalled at the treatment of Salman Rushdie, so let's put that right-wing chestnut into the fire for good.)
What I became aware of most acutely in the last few months, though was that Hitchens was one of those upwardly mobile folks who kinda sorta catapulted into the social mesosphere of the top 1%.
I know that kind. Their kids hang out in neighborhood bars on the upper East Side, before or after going to whatever downtown clubs they go to. This kind of social set is best rendered by Christopher Buckley's rendering of his time with Hitchens in the New Yorker:
David Bradley, the owner of The Atlantic Monthly, to which Christopher contributed many sparkling essays, once took him out to lunch at the Four Seasons Hotel in Georgetown. It was—I think—February and the smoking ban had gone into effect. Christopher suggested that they eat outside, on the terrace. David Bradley is a game soul, but even he expressed trepidation about dining al fresco in forty-degree weather. Christopher merrily countered, “Why not? It will be bracing.”Lunch—dinner, drinks, any occasion—with Christopher always was. One of our lunches, at Café Milano, the Rick’s Café of Washington, began at 1 P.M., and ended at 11:30 P.M. At about nine o’clock (though my memory is somewhat hazy), he said, “Should we order more food?” I somehow crawled home, where I remained under medical supervision for several weeks, packed in ice with a morphine drip. Christopher probably went home that night and wrote a biography of Orwell. His stamina was as epic as his erudition and wit.When we made a date for a meal over the phone, he’d say, “It will be a feast of reason and a flow of soul.” I never doubted that this rococo phraseology was an original coinage, until I chanced on it, one day, in the pages of P. G. Wodehouse, the writer Christopher perhaps esteemed above all others. Wodehouse was the Master. When we met for another lunch, one that lasted only five hours, he was all a-grin with pride as he handed me a newly minted paperback reissue of Wodehouse with “Introduction by Christopher Hitchens.” “Doesn’t get much better than that,” he said, and who could not agree?