Footnotes to Genius
I am again dipping in and out of Christopher Hitchens’s memoir, Hitch-22, after a pause to digest the sudden succession of political memoirs (Mandelson, Blair, Campbell vol 2, Richards, Cowley and Kavanagh, Seldon and Lodge).
I have come across several gems, often in footnotes.
The Hitch’s first proper job in journalism was as Social Science Correspondent for a new title called the Times Higher Education Supplement, before it was launched:
A Gogol-like ghost job which I held for about six months before its editor said something to me that made it impossible to go on working for him.*
The footnote is as follows:
*”You’re fired” were the exact words as I remember them.
On page 141 he says:
In Martin Amis’s novel of Fleet Street, Yellow Dog, you might think that the contempt shown by the reporters for both their subjects and their readers is overdone, but you would be wrong.*
At this point the great egotist has a footnote thus:
*I appear in some obscure online dictionary of quotations for having said that I became a journalist partly so that I wouldn’t ever have to rely on the press for my information.
In a footnote illustrating the wordplay in which the group known as the “Friday lunch”, from the mid-1970s to the early 1980s, engaged, a limerick by Robert Conquest compressing the history of the Bolshevik “experiment” into five lines:
There was an old bastard named Lenin
Who did two or three million men in.
That’s a lot to have done in
But where he did one in
That old bastard Stalin did ten in.
He also, and I am getting to my point, quotes Kingsley Amis on the subject of Graham Greene’s then-latest novel, The Human Factor:
“Absolutely no. Bloody good. AT ALL!”
Which reminded me of two things that have been put on the Banned List. It is all very well the Hitch doing it in a book published last year, or one or two cutting-edge bloggers a few years ago (such as Tom Harris), but the use of full stops for emphasis. Has. Got. To. Stop. AND THE SAME GOES FOR CAPITALS. By order.
Hitch-22 is a joy, every page to be savoured.Tagged in: banned list, christopher hitchens
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