Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Hitchens on Hunter

Yesterday on Slate, that pickled Englishman and neo-American patriot, Christopher Hitchens penned a rather bland obituary on HST except for, naturally, the gunplay and guzzling that goes along with hanging with Hunter.

Although Hitch enraged much of the left with his pro-war stance and his lukewarm attitude toward Bush, I still find him intellectually exciting, albeit increasingly shrill. And sometimes he still makes me laugh, like in the obituary above when he writes:

Stepping off the ski lift, I was met by immaculate specimens of young American womanhood, holding silver trays and flashing perfect dentition. What would I like? I thought a gin and tonic would meet the case. "Sir, that would be inappropriate." In what respect? "At this altitude gin would be very much more toxic than at ground level." In that case, I said, make it a double.

He continues:

The very slight contraction of the freeze-frame smile made it plain that I was wasting my time: It was the early days of the brave new America that knew what was best for you. Spurning the chardonnay and stepping straight back onto the ski lift, I was soon back in town and then, after a short drive, making a turn opposite the Woody Creek Inn (easily spotted by the pig on its roof). And there, at the very fringe of habitation, was Owl Farm and its genial proprietor, Dr. Hunter S. Thompson. Once inside these well-armed precincts, I could drink and smoke and ingest any damn thing I liked. I finished a fairly long evening by doing some friendly target-practice, with laser-guided high-velocity rifles, in the company of my host. An empty bottle didn't stand any more of a chance outside than a full one would have had within. It was vertiginous, for me, to be able to move from one America to another, in point of time and also of place, so rapidly.
Sure these passages are loaded with enough machismo to start a pissing contest, but that's Hitch's market, as it was HST's. And Hitch never ceases to surprise me when he writes on American culture, especially his fondness for people the coasties consider worthless hicks. (Check out his Americana section of Love, Poverty and War). Yet I can't help but think that like HST, Hitch is getting tired of being the bad boy everyone portrays him to be, and that like Hunter, "it is possible to detect the sensation of diminishing returns."

-- M. Wood