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The Dialectic of Change 
by Boris Kagarlitsky, translated by Rick Simon.
Verso, 393 pp., £29.95, January 1990, 0 86091 258 2
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... At the close of the Fifties, the New Left put on a mass meeting in London, at which the star speaker was Isaac Deutscher and the slogan was ‘Into the Red Sixties’. At the close of the Seventies, there was a much-anticipated rally in Central Hall, Westminster, unironically billed as ‘The Debate of the Decade’, between Tony Benn and the leaders of the supposed British extra-parliamentary opposition ...

Christopher Hitchens states a prosecution case

Christopher Hitchens, 25 October 1990

Crossman: The Pursuit of Power 
by Anthony Howard.
Cape, 361 pp., £15.95, October 1990, 0 224 02592 9
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... On 22 February 1965, the fifth month of Harold Wilson’s first ministry, Richard Crossman recorded the following in his Diaries of a Cabinet Minister: Then Harold Wilson raised the issue of Anthony Howard. He has just been appointed by the Sunday Times to be the first Whitehall correspondent in history, looking into the secrets of the Civil Service rather than leaking the secrets of the politicians ...

Thousands of Cans and Cartons

Christopher Hitchens, 24 May 1990

Against the Grain: An Autobiography 
by Boris Yeltsin, translated by Michael Glenny.
Cape, 215 pp., £12.95, March 1990, 0 224 02749 2
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... Several years ago, Tariq Ali published an exquisite interview with a disillusioned veteran of the Indian Communist Party. This old comrade had been invited to Moscow by Khrushchev, and wanted a chance to express his misgivings about the treatment of Boris Pasternak. During a Bolshoi performance in which Khrushchev was showing no interest, he seized his moment ...

Pretending to write ‘Vile Bodies’

Christopher Hitchens, 9 January 1992

Lost Property: Memoirs and Confessions of a Bad Boy 
by Ben Sonnenberg.
Faber, 217 pp., £14.99, November 1991, 0 571 16545 1
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... On the lovely covers of the old Grand Street – a name derived from poor Jewish immigrant New York but still somehow redolent of capacity and generosity – there was the logo of a mettlesome goat. As I grew to know Ben Sonnenberg, so I grew to appreciate this animal. Impatient and randy as it is well-known to be, the goat is above all an omnivore ...

Liber Amoris

Christopher Hitchens, 28 May 1992

The Russian Girl 
by Kingsley Amis.
Hutchinson, 296 pp., £14.99, April 1992, 0 09 174536 5
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... Two core propositions occupy the centre of Sir Kingsley’s fiction, and are doggedly reflected in his occasional journalism, his memoirs, his poetry and his conversation. Rendered as questions, these propositions make it vitally necessary to ask, of everything: ‘Is it any good?’ and ‘Is it nice, or is it nasty?’ (Amazingly, he himself answers in the affirmative when these questions concern, of all crappy things, Science Fiction ...

Simply too exhausted

Christopher Hitchens, 25 July 1991

Edwina Mountbatten: A Life of Her Own 
by Janet Morgan.
HarperCollins, 509 pp., £20, July 1991, 0 00 217597 5
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... complement can make it to the club. I here intrude a reminiscence of the late Commander Eric Hitchens RN, who served briefly with Mountbatten. He asked one sailor what the boss was like. ‘He leaves us alone,’ said the jolly tar after a thoughtful pause. (And what does ‘willingly’ mean in that first sentence above?) My father’s acquaintance with ...

Diary

Christopher Hitchens: Reagan and Rambo, 3 October 1985

... The standard image of President Ronald Reagan as a game but fuddled movie actor is an image so stale as to be rebarbative. It is the standby of the weary cartoonist, the flagging gag-writer and the composer of hackneyed captions. It’s been a boast of mine, during some years of writing from Washington, that I have never lampooned the old boy as a Wild West ham, an All-American kid, a granite-jawed GI, or any other of the stock repertoire ...

Diary

Christopher Hitchens: On the Original Non-Event , 20 April 1995

... Perhaps she didn’t feel she had been well seated. Never mind; I was able to introduce Alexander Hitchens to Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone, both of whom were very nice to him, as was Jessica Lange and as were Uma Thurman and Oprah Winfrey. His only autograph refusal came from Jane Fonda. I was impressed by how many people didn’t go for ...

Done Deal

Christopher Hitchens: Nixon in China, 5 April 2001

A Great Wall: Six Presidents and China 
by Patrick Tyler.
PublicAffairs, 512 pp., £11.99, September 2000, 1 58648 005 7
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... any consideration of human rights. The story of the cave-in is instructive. In March 1994, Warren Christopher paid his first visit to China as Secretary of State. A few days before his arrival, the authorities arrested Wei Jingsheng, the highest-ranking Party member to have become a dissident, and one of the founders of the ‘Democracy Wall’ movement. No ...

Tio Sam

Christopher Hitchens, 20 December 1990

In the Time of the Tyrants: Panama 1968-89 
by R.M. Koster and Guillermo Sanchez Borbon.
Secker, 430 pp., £17.99, October 1990, 0 436 20016 3
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... A feature, not just of the age of the end of ideology, but of the age immediately preceding the age of the end of ideology, is that of the dictator who has no ideology at all. While Pinochet had a Manichean or Franco-ite anti-Communism to inform him, and Vorster and Verwoerd had the dream of white Christian destiny, and the Greek colonels the rather more insipid rhetoric of ‘Greece for Christian Greeks’, the decay of outright fascist systems was quite a rapid and complete one – much more rapid and complete than Nicos Poulantzas, for example, had envisaged in La Crise des Dictatures ...

At the Party

Christopher Hitchens, 17 April 1986

Hollywood Babylon II 
by Kenneth Anger.
Arrow, 323 pp., £5.95, January 1986, 0 09 945110 7
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Hollywood from Vietnam to Reagan 
by Robin Wood.
Columbia, 336 pp., $25, October 1985, 0 231 05776 8
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... In the Forties and Fifties there used to be a series of Confidential books – Washington Confidential, New York Confidential and so on – turned out by Jack Lait and Lee Mortimer. The fearless duo, shrouded in their macintoshes and trilbies, would bring the naive reader the straight dope from the lower depths. They practised the same combination of rough-hewn populism and right-wing politics as a Mickey Spillane thriller or a contemporary Reader’s Digest ...

Oh, Lionel!

Christopher Hitchens, 3 December 1992

P.G. Wodehouse: Man and Myth 
by Barry Phelps.
Constable, 344 pp., £16.95, October 1992, 9780094716209
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... We know from his immense correspondence that P.G. Wodehouse was at once omnivorous and discriminating in his reading (garbage in; synthesis out – a good maxim for any young reader-for-pleasure setting out on life’s road). He cited authors as various as Lion Feuchtwanger and Rudyard Kipling, and didn’t bluff about a book he hadn’t read. And we know that he was excessively fond of the theatre ...

Diary

Christopher Hitchens: In Washington, 20 August 1992

... The high and low points of the Democratic Convention were, I found, unusually easy to determine. High indeed was the sight and sound of Aretha Franklin singing ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’, and giving it a variation that provided one of those only-in-America moments which do in fact only occur in America. Lower, both in scale and register, was the experience of seeing Roy Hattersley cruising the upper galleries of the ghastly neo-brutalist Madison Square Garden ...

Performing Seals

Christopher Hitchens: The PR Crowd, 10 August 2000

Partisans: Marriage, Politics and Betrayal Among the New York Intellectuals 
by David Laskin.
Simon and Schuster, 319 pp., $26, January 2000, 0 684 81565 6
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... A man I met told me that F.R. Leavis had once been invited to Columbia University to talk, and was afterwards bidden to a reception in his own honour. The co-editor of Scrutiny had been very much himself and, after his departure, was discussed as visitors tend to be. A certain elderly member of the English Department even observed: ‘He seemed perfectly all right to me ...

Diary

Christopher Hitchens: Keywords, 13 September 1990

... boundaries and the struggle for a legible and intelligible architecture. People tell me that Christopher Booker is the real intellectual and moral influence upon the Prince of Wales; if so, a version of the Spectator ethos may become semi-regnant in the thinkable future. Partly because of its historic attitude to Zionism, and partly because of the ...

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