I've read a lot of reviews—on the left, right and center—of Christopher Hitchens's fascinating and horrifying autobiography. Don Guttenplan's brilliantly insightful deconstruction of Hitchens's intellectual and moral lives is, far and away, the most insightful. Deploying Hitchens's own notion of "doubleness" to skewer CH's maddening opportunism, Guttenplan captures his sheer intellectual brilliance while never losing sight of his almost pathological gift for currying favor with Washington's reactionary elites.
I met Hitchens only once, when I was helping Victor Navasky organize a memorial service at the Ethical Culture Society for the revered historian Edward Thompson in 1993. I had to recruit Hitchens to speak at the event, which he was more than willing to do and, in fact, did brilliantly. We ran into each other several times over the intervening years at the CUNY Graduate Center, where I work, and he was always cordial and willing to re-establish our shared reverence for Edward's brand of historical writing. He was also, on each of those occasions, "in his cups," as Brits like to say. I share with Guttenplan a profound sense of loss for the left as well as regret at the squandering of such unique intellectual and political talents.
New York, NY
Aug 26 2010 - 5:04am