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Beat the Deadline on Hits All the Christians

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Those were some amusing, and quite affectionate, nicknames at The Nation in my time there (1994-98) for Alexander Cockburn (whose column is called “Beat the Devil,” after the 1953 film) and Christopher Hitchens. I’m only three-quarters through the fascinating piece in The New Yorker, and although I have a few things to add, I’m going to wait till I finish. In the meantime, Cockburn (whose name is pronounced co-burn, for those who are still mispronouncing it) reprints what he says is his entire exchange with reporter Ian Parker on his website, Counterpunch.

I haven’t read it yet, so I’m not endorsing anything, although I’ll gladly say that Parker’s prose style is like a pitcher full of fresh lemonade after Malcolm Gladwell’s very interesting but not particularly sparkling story (must everyone be characterized by how much and what color hair he has?). I’ll also add—from my vantage point midway through the piece, so don’t jump on me if I’m wrong—that the history of The Nation in the ’80s and ’90s, thorough and necessarily subjective, lives in great part in the brain of former editor JoAnn Wypijewski, and I was surprised she wasn’t quoted as well; nor was Katha Pollitt, who’s had her own intellectual conflicts with the Hitch over the past few decades. Anyway, I look forward to finishing Parker’s story and checking back in about it then.

Completely trivially, I laughed when I read that Hitchens’ father had counseled him “Don’t let them see you with just your socks on,” because the sight of Cockburn’s wet, muddy, enormous boots on the center Nation library table after a rainstorm is one I will never forget. I thought they were rude and outrageous and kind of cool, but the newspapers were getting wet.


I wrote about Ian Parker’s piece on my blog because it clarified a great deal for me. Hitchen’s writing style is overshadowed by the anger, the brutal spitefulness of his approach to life. i’m not too fussed about his drinking, or his mid life change regarding politics, it’s the sheer meanness that turns me off re Hitchens.

Parker highlighted some key issues that have contributed to this fact.

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