Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

Don't Ask Christopher Hitchens About Anything But Himself

THE HITCHFor the next three weeks, Christopher Hitchens will be on book tour. He leaves the east coast next week, and then travels from Seattle on south, ending by looping over to Denver and Texas in early July. He is not, however, taking questions from the audiences on any matters not pertaining directly to himself, as he is now promoting his memoir, Hitch-22. "Wrong book!" he says, and he says it often, and he says it in a sad, huffy way, each time people ask him questions about God or Iraq or anything not directly pertaining to his personal written history, which was published all of two weeks ago. (Parts of which are about God and Iraq, but hey.) He really seems mystified as to why anyone would ask about any of the other topics of his many books, which were arriving at least once a year throughout the 00s until, in 2008, things stopped, as he began to assemble this latest. He is, however, very entertaining! He has colorful stories and he is, now, old enough to have aged well into his feisty, learned high-class manner and accent. The wonderful thing about Hitchens is that he is better-read and smarter than you, and that's very relaxing. But one of his many colorful stories he is telling is about Hezbollah.

This story tracks to a piece published in May, 2009, in Vanity Fair. Hitchens was in Lebanon. (He has a bit about how, in cities that begin with the letter 'B,' he feels likely to be the victim of violence, including Beirut and the former Bombay. His book tour, fortunately, took him just to Boston and not Baltimore.)

So there, in the southern area of Beirut, Hitchens attended a rally in a big tent. The tent was decorated, Hitchens reported in VF: "a huge poster of a nuclear mushroom cloud surmounts the scene, with the inscription oh zionists, if you want this type of war then so be it!" (James Kirchick has seen the same).

Oh, Hezbollah. There's not a lot of scare-mongering that needs to be done to make that particular group scary to Americans.

Yet, Hitchens is trying his best. On his book tour, he has paraphrased and recast his own telling of this story. This was at a stop on the tour that took place in a crowded temple, where the audience was at the very least 80% Jewish. (Hitchens greeted the crowd by saying "Shalom"-his wife, daughter and mother are Jewish.)

In his retelling, Hitchens described this as a, or the, "Hezbollah flag," and he said, when you "decode" the Arabic text, that is formed in the shape of a mushroom cloud, this "flag" says "Watch out Jews, we're coming for you."

When he said this, the revulsion and fear in the room was very real. Why wouldn't it be? Angry Shias, coming for the Jews! Watch out, Jews!

But it wasn't even true, according to Hitchens of last year. The stupid Hezbollah poster was typical revolutionary (and conditionally-phrased!) chest-pounding-really, bad enough! Just not bad enough for the telling.

27 Comments / Post A Comment

I'll probably stop by Powell's next week to see him in Portland. If you can identify me, you get a prize.

NicFit (#616)

Are ppl allowed to ask him about his cock-crazy English boarding school?

Moff (#28)

I have trouble believing Christopher Hitchens would demonstrate anything less than absolute intellectual honesty about anything.

Ben Dreyfuss (#3,944)

Dammit, Internet Politburo! I thought we kicked Jamie Kirchick out?

oudemia (#177)

No, I think it was just The Gays who kicked him out.

SidAndFinancy (#4,328)

Truly terrible work at the old TNR blog, where the commenters frequently called him on it.

SidAndFinancy (#4,328)

I'm waiting for the tour of his next book, Something Hitchened.

Fever Hitch? For serious, though, Hitch-22 is an awful, awful title.

Moff (#28)

For the next one, I'm gonna go with The Hitch Is Back.

saythatscool (#101)

Hitch's Cock. A 324 page treatise on how the blood sport is good for the world and how PETA secretly wants the US to be ruled by owls.

libmas (#231)

Hitchlander II: The Dickening?

SidAndFinancy (#4,328)

Good ones, all, but I was going for the theme of ripping off Joseph Heller's next novel, too.

Also, Hitch, I can relate. Violence often results when I get into Bombay, too.

saythatscool (#101)

Yeah, all those poor Indian prostitutes who get in your van never even see it coming.

SidAndFinancy (#4,328)

Missionary work is my calling, I guess. Along with several other positions.

shaunr (#726)

Isn't this how all the other hack standups try to get the crowd on their side? I bet he opens in Boston with a real zinger about the Big Dig.

RonMwangaguhung (#3,697)

Love Hitch, my former mentor when I interned at The Nation years ago: the greatest arguer, most interesting thinker (and, surprisingly, kind man) on the scene.

skahammer (#587)

So either you offer an amusing (but nonincriminating) anecdote right away, or else for the rest of your life you must acknowledge that when offered a chance at true greatness, you cowered like a cringing ninny.

barnhouse (#1,326)

The hooch has really messed him up. Sad.

It also made him interesting and loveable…Hooch-22

barnhouse (#1,326)

Yes and no; he was so much quicker and more articulate before the booze really took him down; a process which has taken decades, to be sure. The atheism book is a real embarrassment.

Jim Demintia (#1,815)

The only thing Hitch found in Beirut that I'm at all interested in was the epic, and epically deserved, ass-beating he received there.

He's a stupid cunt.

I know something witty should follow that statement, but I've been reading Martin Amis and my reserve of blistering remarks about race-baiting pseudo-intellectual gob-faced English twats is down to a drop in the tank.

joeclark (#651)

This obviously becomes a kind of Anglo-American Snowclone Challenge.

I Know What You Hitched Last Summer.

How Shlomo Got His Hitch Back.

Hitch Encounters of the Third Kind.

Onjay (#2,679)

Sadly, he's neither stupid nor a cunt, IMHO. I liked him a whole lot better as 4th International kinda activist. Oh fuck…that's TOTALLY outré these days, isn't it.

rula (#3,558)

The reason the piece of shit will only talk about his new book is because otherwise he might have to answer to his leading the cheerleading section that got us into Iraq.

Amanda Leah (#5,589)

Whatever your opinion of Hitchens' opinions, he is undoubtedly entertaining. Not least when he is, somewhat surprisingly, embracing Jewish identity while simultaneously deflecting all attempts, no less ridiculous for their predictability, to challenge his atheism as sophomoric. His reading at Temple Judea in Miami was particularly tempting in it's promise to deliver just such an episode. The moment that makes it into my top 10 though – is when Hitchens sent the handsome president of the young republicans of somewhere rapidly back to his seat by declaring Ayn Rand's novels much easier to write than to read.

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