Christopher Hitchens (1949–2011) was a British-American journalist and social critic. Known for his confrontational style and contrarian views on a range of social issues, Hitchens was a frequent contributor to The Nation, The Atlantic, The Times Literary Supplement and Vanity Fair. Hitchens recounts his struggle with esophageal cancer in Mortality, which was published in 2012.

Orwell’s List

It is easy enough for me to say that George Orwell was essentially right about the three great twentieth-century issues of fascism, Stalinism, and empire, and that he was enabled to be right by a certain insistence on intellectual integrity and independence. The question arises, was it possible for him …

Bad Guy Number One

Of all our customary critical expressions, the word “Romantic” has probably suffered the most from diminishing returns. Its protean character can be seen in the contradictions of ordinary speech, where a romantic “interlude,” for example, is rather a good thing whereas a romantic “scheme” is rather not. The Decline and …

Lord Trouble

In Berlin in 1892, Max Nordau published his extraordinary book Entartung, or “Degeneration.” Dedicated to the pseudoscientist and (let me risk a tautology) phrenologist Cesare Lombroso, this dense and lengthy diatribe sought to lay bare the origins and effects of national and individual self-hatred and self-destructiveness. Directed at the languor …

O’Brian’s Great Voyage

On any approximately proportionate view of history, of the kind that may become more gradually available to us as the long day of the twentieth century wanes, the Napoleonic conflict would deserve to be called the First World War. Never before had two great powers and their volatile allies mobilized …

The Real Thing

A few weeks ago, his lordship the Earl of Wemyss and March, master of Gosford House in the Scottish county of East Lothian, disburdened himself of Botticelli’s exquisite Virgin Adoring the Christ Child for a price of twenty million pounds sterling. Since the buyer was the Kimbell Museum in Texas, …

The Case of Arthur Conan Doyle

T.S. Eliot’s most successful feline—the depraved Macavity in Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats—is well known as a straight lift from Professor Moriarty, the saturnine villain in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Final Problem”: He is the Napoleon of crime, Watson. He is the organiser of half that is evil …

The Cosmopolitan Man

Here is a report from The New York Times of September 12, 1960, written from Poughkeepsie under the byline of Ira Henry Freeman: Gore Vidal, Democratic candidate for Representative in the twenty-ninth Congressional District, sprawled barefoot in a gilded fauteuil of his luxurious octagonal Empire study as he considered the …

Last Summer on the Vineyard

So-called midstream fictions of international intrigue or of American politics—and of the filiations between them—have become almost as dependent as the movies themselves on certain formulae. There are no test-market audiences or focus groups for fiction (if one exempts Tom Wolfe’s repeated trial runs in the pages of Rolling Stone), …

Powell’s Way

Suppose yourself to be netted in some elaborate dream, where the examination topic for tomorrow involves the invention of a fictional conversation. The characters must be Englishmen, located at some midpoint in the recent age of ideology, who are part upper-crust and part bohemian, yet who are earnestly discussing the …

Goodbye to All That

  1. When, shortly after the triumph of the Castro revolution, Ernesto Guevara took over the direction of the Cuban National Bank, it became his duty to sign the newly minted ten- and twenty-peso notes. This he did with a contemptuous flourish, scrawling the bold nom de guerre “Che” on both …

The Long Littleness of Life

Christopher Isherwood and W.H. Auden left their country of birth—effectively forever—on January 19, 1939. Their departure for America was widely construed as an act of desertion if not of cowardice. In his Munich-era novelette Put Out More Flags, Evelyn Waugh lampooned the pair as “Parsnip and Pimpernell.” He went slightly …

Something for the Boys

The dedication page of this Behemoth carries a lapidary, capitalized inscription, “To Ronald Wilson Reagan, Fortieth President of the United States: The Man Who Won The War.” And this is only fair. In 1984, the Naval Institute Press paid Tom Clancy an advance of $5,000 for The Hunt for Red …

Pulp Politics

In 1971, Jerry Bruno and Jeff Greenfield jointly wrote a book called The Advance Man. Bruno had been “advance man” for the John F. Kennedy campaign when the techniques of spin and momentum were in their relative infancy, and Greenfield had performed something of the same office for the Robert …

Ode to the West Wing

The “Washington novel” is bound and confined by a number of relatively strict conventions, and by one limiting fact. The limiting fact is that the United States, alone among developed nations with the possible exception of Australia (and the recent anomaly of Germany), chooses to locate its capital city in …

Experimental Station

Thomas Aquinas never completed De Regno, his treatise on the principles of government. But he addressed its unfinished portion to King Hugh II of Cyprus, prompting Sir George Hill to comment, in his history of the island: It was fondly hoped that the throne of Cyprus was an experimental station …