January 15th, 2012 | stuff2012
|Before the poor sod developed cancer, I had nursed a concern that new generations might only know Christopher Hitchens from the likes of his turns on The Daily Show, where he clearly arrived drunk off his arse and would shamble on to the set with a coffee mug brimming with vodka before proceeding to rant and inveigh in a manner befitting less a titan of letters than the hated shitfaced uncle who pins you to a corner at funeral parties with his long and awful narratives about Shakespeare, black people and piles.
There’s some of that in here too, to be honest.
There are people who argue forensically, in pursuit of some kind of broader point that might approach Truth, and then there are the people who rail at an audience at their own book launches, glass of red in hand, loudly concluding “…and you all suck.” As caught on documentary film, and this book, Hitchens was mostly the latter.
The book’s well named. Hitchens would pick an argument with furniture. He’d also use the item as the launching point for a discourse on… well, whatever was up his arse that day, with little regard for its relevance to furniture. Much of this book, then, is a collection of “reviews” framed as lectures on the subject of the day. The man’s passion for America, and his immersion in its history, is quite fascinating, even if there was no editor brave enough to iron out the collection of prominent writer’s tics he’d acquired over the years. And while I’m hardly one to complain about a writer cowing his editors, the situation seems sometimes to reflect the book quite darkly: he seemed always up for a fight, but only so long as he was assured of winning.
Except for the last fight.
An enjoyable, frustrating, enjoyably frustrating book, a last artful flurry of blows from a great fighter.