Friday 16 December 2011

Hitchens: All Rather Odd

Once in a while a well-known person who is by no means without their human shortcomings drops off the perch, and there is a deluge of eulogising across all media - a Peter Cook, or a Paul Foot: and you realise just how much they were loved and admired, failings and all.

Now the pent-up Christopher Hitchens dam has broken, and of all people in the universe he wouldn't (couldn't) complain if someone were to poop his party.

So, throwing nihil nisi bonum to the winds: isn't some of this rather odd ? In April, best chum Martin Amis got his eulogy in early: "Martin Amis hails the peerless intelligence and rhetorical ingenuity of his exceptional friend"
(Observer, April - a piece that was taken down from the www so quickly one could only assume someone told him how strange it was).

Its centrepiece was a sequence of wit-and-wisdom illustrations, one of which went as follows. CH and MA are in a New York restaurant. A trendily casual waiter happens over with some bad news to impart: something's off the menu or whatever. He approaches the table and sinks down onto his haunches to convey the message, saying: guys, you're going to hate me for this...

Quick as a flash, the peerless Hitchens replies: It's OK, we hate you already.

err ... right.

Perhaps you had to be there.


I am reliably informed (see comments) that it was not a waiter that was on the receiving end of this incredible witticism


Anonymous said...

you didn't have to be there just tell the story right. Not New York, London, not the waiter, some rich guys trying to arrange tables, not even that punchline.

Nick Drew said...

tell us more, anon

i knew my memory was bad but ...

pity they took down the original

Anonymous said...

We were in a tiny Italian restaurant in west London, where we would soon be joined by our future first wives. Two elegant young men in waisted suits were unignorably and interminably fussing with the staff about rearranging the tables, to accommodate the large party they expected. It was an intensely class-conscious era (because the class system was dying); Christopher and I were candidly lower-middle bohemian, and the two young men were raffishly minor-gentry (they had the air of those who await, with epic stoicism, the deaths of elderly relatives). At length, one of them approached our table, and sank smoothly to his haunches, seeming to pout out through the fine strands of his fringe. The crouch, the fringe, the pout: these had clearly enjoyed many successes in the matter of bending others to his will. After a flirtatious pause he said, "You're going to hate us for this."
And Christopher said, "We hate you already."

Sebastian Weetabix said...

Personally I always found him objectionable, pseudo-intelligent and rather wearing. And if the anecdote above is accurate - well... hmm. Not exactly Oscar Wilde, was it? Perhaps the standards of our men of letters has slipped a bit.

dearieme said...

A trot who supported the Iraq attack: some iconoclast. The sort of self-indulgent twit who never really grew up: I remember them from university days onwards. He had the gift of the gab, but not in spades.

lilith said...

Perhaps Peter will blossom now.

lilith said...

Do you think Amis has already written his eulogy to Ian McNovelist too?

Mr McNovelist has managed to make his tribute to the Hitch all about himself which is a huge surprise.

Imagine being locked in a room with those three egos...

Elby the Beserk said...

I was in the same house at school as both Christopher and Peter. Way back then (for example, he was the Labour candidate in the mock bye election held during the 1966 General election, and I can still picture him giving a speech standing on a bench), it was clear he was bound for greater things, and also that Peter would be forever chasing his coat tails.

I met that MacEwen once as well. Totally refused to acknowledge him as the novelist. Carp one anyway. all down hill after The Cement Garden.

I wonder whether his career would have been the same, had he been expelled, as he nearly was, for nicking books from the school library, and selling them down town to pay for betting on the gee-gees. Massive smoker way back then as well. Regardless of what one thinks of him - and I think he was an arse on Iraq and superb on Kissinger the Genocide, he was a writer from the past in his magnificent prose and weapons grade wit.