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What can Christopher Hitchens, camp English gentleman-essayist and DC curiosity, do for you? Write a memoir, that’s what! Your Wonkette book reviewer admires Hitchens’ writing up to A Certain Point, but didn’t he become a bit dull over the last decade, when he became the Man With One Idea? First he was obsessed with Iraq, and wrote almost exclusively about that, making the same war-fap catcalls over and over. Then he became obsessed with famous Third World dictator "God," which brought him such riches that he’s now obliged to talk about this notorious tyrant all the damn time.


The fact that he's wrong about Iraq and right about clerical horror is less important than the fact that he’s been suppressing the dandyish eclecticism that made him interesting. That is why it’s refreshing to report that Hitch-22 is -- despite the embarrassing title that no publisher should have allowed -- thoroughly entertaining beach/oilscape reading.

Early in these wistful reminiscences, Hitch writes:

I was one of those rural and suburban boys who, like Ruskin when taking the railway across North London, would feel the impulse to pull down the blinds as my train went through scenes of ugliness and misery and desolation in places called Hackney Downs and London Fields. Once, after staying with a school friend on the Mumbles peninsula of South Wales, I had been as distressed as William Blake by my brief glimpse of the hell-mouth scenes of the steelworks and coal-pits around Port Talbot.

Hitchens knows his forebears. That is exactly like the time Ruskin wrote a Slate column about how “somebody should cluster-bomb Hackney Downs good and proper, drag the ghoulish Baathist shit-hole into the 19th century.” Or the time Blake angrily shook his fist at the steelworks, calling them “a hog-visaged pimp for Islamofascism” before downing an entire bottle of Johnnie Walker and marching off to appear on Morning Joe.

What else is in this thing? Instead of a boring summary, let’s do a numerical index:

1: Nightmarish visit to a New York brothel in broad daylight / self-administering of the Proust questionnaire at the back of Vanity Fair / strange conversation with Jorge Luis Borges .

2: Future members of Margaret Thatcher’s cabinet Hitch slept with at Oxford, in a gay way; meetings with Latin American strongmen of opposite political stripes; wives.

4: Chapters devoted to one talented friend or another (James Fenton, Martin Amis, Salman Rushdie, Edward Said); lands Hitch makes one long to visit (Portugal, Cyprus, Argentina, North Korea).

5: Authors of filthy limericks and/or Private Eye pieces who would've made fine contributors to the 1970s/1980s British edition of Wonkette (Each famous Amis, Rushdie, Robert Conquest, Francis Wheen).

Uncountable: Allusions to history, literature, and Marxist arcana of both the “hmm, must check that out” and “trying too hard” varieties.

So read it! And read Hitchens’ various essay collections. Read his friends, who are the justly fapped-over love interests of Hitch-22. Try Amis’ comic novels (his Serious Important ones aren't as good), Rushdie at his best, and Fenton’s fine poetry and Vietnam journalism.

FULL DISCLOSURE: Your reviewer once met Christopher Hitchens, briefly, and he was Actually Very Nice Indeed.

SAD RELATED HEADLINE: Hitchens has got the esophageal cancer, and must undergo chemotherapy treatments, which is why he isn't doing many book appearances right now.

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