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misuse of literature

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We don’t grow beasts like Hitchens in the US. Filled to the brim with satanic figures we surely are, but they rarely have reams of poetry by heart. Ours slick and equivocate, but not with the likes of Yeats and Shakespeare on their forked tongues.

Here he is with his latest and perhaps worst piece to date:

I was having an oppressively normal morning a few months ago, flicking through the banality of quotidian e-mail traffic, when I idly clicked on a message from a friend headed “Seen This?” The attached item turned out to be a very well-written story by
Teresa Watanabe of the Los Angeles Times. It described thedeath, in Mosul, Iraq, of a young soldier from Irvine, California, named Mark Jennings Daily, and the unusual degree of emotion that his community was undergoing as a consequence. The emotion derived from a very moving statement that the boy had left behind, stating his reasons for having become a volunteer and bravely facing the prospect that his
words might have to be read posthumously. In a way, the story was almost too perfect: this handsome lad had been born on the Fourth ofJuly, was a registered Democrat and self-described agnostic, a U.C.L.A. honors graduate, and during his college days had fairly decided reservations about the war in Iraq. I read on, and actually printed the story out, and was turning a page when I saw the following:

“Somewhere along the way, he changed his mind. His family says there
was no epiphany. Writings by author and columnist Christopher Hitchens
on the moral case for war deeply influenced him … “

Did you notice that the moments of ethical adding up that happen in the piece, the places where Hitchens “solves” the problem of his own complicity with this horrible thing (the war, the death of this kid), involve the deployment of literature. Literature that serves here as a cloud of easy equivalence, as permission to say mistily what you couldn’t possibly say without the screen of metaphor and allusion.

For the piece relies upon the equation: Hitchens is to Iraq what Yeats is to the Easter Rising and Orwell is to Barcelona. But of course Iraq is not the Easter Rising, nor is it Barcelona, unless perhaps you’re seeing it from the other side of the lines.

Written by adswithoutproducts

October 5, 2007 at 9:46 am

Posted in distraction, literature, war

2 Responses

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  1. I hate to ask, but who the hell are you to deny Hitchens a literary outlet for his anxieties? Sure, it may be indulgent, compromising, and unfair to the reality of the situation to paint it in such a self-indulgent light, but as a sometimes resident of Irvine, I can understand the impulse – it made me wonder how many kids I’ve met around the UCI campus with simmilar viewpoints and backgrounds that could have just as easially been put in Daily’s place. Sometimes one must be tasteless to comprehend and deal with the universe’s apparent lack of taste.

    That being said, the quoted self-insertion (“Writings by author and columnist Christopher Hitchens on the moral case for war deeply influenced him”) made me fucking sick.

    John

    October 7, 2007 at 5:54 pm

  2. Verily, that is a level of vileness I had put past him. Oh for the days of his TV shows on why he hated Mother Theresa and Princess Di…

    Owen

    October 10, 2007 at 11:46 am


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