In thinking about a new compendium, Quotable Hitchens From Alcohol to Zionism–The Very Best of Christopher Hitchens edited by Windsor Mann (Da Capo Press) i couldn’t help recall the old saw about putting 40,000 monkeys at typewriters—resulting in the contents of the British Library. This, is of course only a reference to Christopher Hitchens prodigious output and the the ubiquity of his many genred (except poetry and fiction) outpourings. From Alcohol to Zionism is some range of topics but that’s Hitchens: now I could be hallucinating but I believe I recently read his instructional on the proper way to brew tea.
It is of course no small tribute to have such a book affixed to one’s name. Although, when you stop and think about it is there any one else writing or cogitating to day about whom such a volume could be justifiably collected(Settin g aside Jacob Weissberg’s collection of Bush malpropisms)? I think not.
Martin Amis, Hitchens’ confrere offers this
Christopher is one of the most terrifying rhetoricians that the world has yetseen. Lenin used to boast that his objective, in debate, was not rebuttal and then refutation: it was the “destruction” of his interlocutor. This isn’t Christopher’s policy –but it is his practice. Towards the very end of the last century, all the greatest chessplayers, including Garry Kasparov, began to succumb to a computer (named Deep
Blue); I had the opportunity to ask two grandmasters to describe the Deep Blue experience, and they both said: “It’s like a wall coming at you.” In argument, Christopher is that wall. The prototype of Deep Blue was known as Deep Thought. And there’s a case for calling Christopher Deep Speech. With his vast array of geohistorical references and precedents, he is almost Google-like; but Google (with, say, its 10million “results” in 0.7 seconds) something of an idiot savant, and Christopher’s search engine is much more finely tuned. In debate, no matter what the motion, I would back him against Cicero, against Demosthenes
And as long as Amis has ventured on stage here,one might note he has recently made some news or noise, if you will in England (which he is unquietly quitting to come to America) by disparaging England in an interview with Le Nouvel Observateur a French magazine. Amis, of course,is not reticent about mentioning that his feelings and criticisms are richly present in his next and not quite forthcoming novel State of England.
Don Henley did say it well in a song:
Sometimes the light is best from a burning bridge.