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Jason Pontin

A View from Jason Pontin

Charming your Audience

Some readers will recall my affection for The Hitch. Today, at the Hay Literary Festival in England, as reported by The Guardian: Female audience member: Excuse me. I’m not usually awkward at all, but I’m sitting here and we’re asked…

  • May 31, 2005

Some readers will recall my affection for The Hitch. Today, at the Hay Literary Festival in England, as reported by The Guardian:

Female audience member: Excuse me. I’m not usually awkward at all, but I’m sitting here and we’re asked not to smoke. And I don’t like being in a room where smoking is going on.

Christopher Hitchens (for it is he - smoking heavily): Well, you don’t have to stay, do you, darling? I’m working here and I’m your guest. OK? This is what I like.

Ian Katz (Guardian Features Editor and interviewer): I say, would you just stub that one out, Christopher?

CH: No. I cleared it with the festival a long time ago. They let me do it. If anyone doesn’t like it they can kiss my ass.

The woman walked out.

Christopher Hitchens is, I promise, one of the most intelligent, fearless, morally sensitive journalists alive. No, really. The Guardian interview also reveals the amusing information that Christopher has not spoken to his brother Peter, also a British journalist, in four years. Apparently, Peter told The Spectator, a conservative British magazine, “I don’t see why Christopher has become so pro-American; I can remember when he said he wouldn’t be happy until he saw the Red Army watering its horses in the Thames.” The Hitch took this to mean that Peter thought he, Christopher, was a Stalinist - and Christopher was inflamed with rage. The Hitch is a former Troskyite. Different.

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