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How’s the vampire?

Christopher Hitchens, 8 November 1990

King Edward VIII: The Official Biography 
by Philip Ziegler.
Collins, 654 pp., £20, September 1990, 0 00 215741 1
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... Uneasy lies the head that wears a throne.’ This wistful schoolboy howler from 1066 And All That is the essential summary of two related absurdities. The first is the intrinsic inanity of a royal family; the second is the ridiculous blend of deference and denial that goes into the making of public support for it. Philip Ziegler is a historian of uncommon candour and, especially considering the ‘authorised’ nature of his work, unusual humour ...

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 ...

Diary

Christopher Hitchens: Andy Warhol at MoMA, 12 October 1989

... The intriguing thing about the opening night of the Andy Warhol retrospective in Manhattan was its tameness. MOMA (the Museum of Modern Art) can seldom have looked so respectable while being at the same time, in a faintly macabre way, en fête. I could have got in without a black tie, but would have looked wildly conspicuous in mufti and was glad to have observed the protocol of the invitation ...

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 ...

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 ...

Diary

Christopher Hitchens: On Peregrine Worsthorne, 4 November 1993

... In Simon Raven’s Alms for Oblivion novel sequence, we are introduced to the hopeless young charmer Fielding Gray. His father is remote and sourly reactionary; his mother develops ominous signs of chippiness and puritanism. Young Fielding gets through most of the right hoops but usually in the wrong way. His public school, in other words, is slightly too minor ...

Diary

Christopher Hitchens: In Washington, 7 February 1991

... The Greeks had a saying that ‘the iron draws the hand towards it,’ which encapsulates, as well as anything can, the idea that weapons and armies are made to be used. And the Romans had a maxim that if you wish peace you must prepare for war. Oddly enough, even strict observance of this rule is not always enough to guarantee peace. But if you happen to want a war, preparing for it is a very good way to get it ...

Diary

Christopher Hitchens: The Salman Rushdie Acid Test, 24 February 1994

... In all the stultifying discussion of Prince Charles’s fitness to grasp the orb and sceptre of kingship, there is one qualification that is almost never canvassed. I refer to his ability to give the annual Christmas broadcast to the Commonwealth. No light matter this – it was a dreaded annual penance for his grandfather – and made no lighter by his presumptive inability to end the chat by saying: ‘My wife and I ...

Diary

Christopher Hitchens: Men (and Women) of the Year, 14 December 1995

... This month in New York, the fashionable charity named United Cerebral Palsy is having an ‘awards’ event. I think that the winners must have been picked some time ago. The ‘outstanding achievement’ prize goes to General Colin Powell, and will be presented by Barbara Walters. The ‘humanitarian’ award goes to Diana Spencer and will be presented by Henry Kissinger ...

Bill and Dick’s Excellent Adventure

Christopher Hitchens, 20 February 1997

Behind the Oval Office: Winning the Presidency in the Nineties 
by Dick Morris.
Random House, 382 pp., $25.95, January 1997, 9780679457473
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... I was travelling in Illinois when I first heard some beefy local pol utter the profound Post-Modern truth that ‘Politics is showbiz for ugly people.’ Yes, you too may be a mediocre, flaky-scalped, pudgy sycophant. But, with the right ‘skills’, you also can possess a cellular phone and keep a limo on call and ‘take meetings’ and issue terse directives like ‘I want this yesterday, understand ...

Gotterdämmerung

Christopher Hitchens, 12 January 1995

... Forster’s apparently evergreen remark, about choosing to betray your country rather than your friends, has always seemed to me to be – as well as an exercise in moral casuistry – the father and mother of a false antithesis. I mean to say, who ever is actually faced, or has been faced, with such a choice? In 1917 or thereabouts, Siegfried Sassoon confided to his friend Robert Graves that he was planning to ‘go public’, as a decorated front-line officer, with what he knew about real conditions on the Western Front ...

The Trouble with HRH

Christopher Hitchens, 5 June 1997

Princess Margaret: A Biography 
by Theo Aronson.
O’Mara, 336 pp., £16.99, February 1997, 1 85479 248 2
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... Amid all the wretched declension of the British royal family, many people seem willing to suspend their general disapproval, disappointment, boredom, nausea – you name it – in the case of our Sovereign Lady the Queen. Unselfish, dutiful, serious, modest, faithful unto death, she rises above the showbiz values, disco ambitions and petty neuroses of her clan and brood ...

Diary

Christopher Hitchens: The Almanach de Gotha, 2 July 1998

... In his memoirs, Claud Cockburn wrote about the occasional charm of things being just the way they’re supposed to be. Thus, the first time he went on the Orient Express he met a tempestuous woman who was later arrested for espionage; the first time he interviewed a politician he was told a breathtaking lie in the first five minutes; the first time he entered an Irish castle a fine large pig ran squealing across the main hall ...

Diary

Christopher Hitchens: The Candidates for the 2000 Presidency, 6 January 2000

... It was in San Diego, California in the late summer of 1996 that the working hacks finally tumbled to what they had done. A Republican National Convention had been arranged, as a sort of sound-stage or a mixed-media event, entirely for the convenience of the press and TV. The delegates were mere extras on the set, the coronation of the two nominees was a sure thing, the feral extremists and fundamentalists had been tidied out of sight, the corporate-sponsorship logos were beautifully placed, the camera angles and background briefings were the chief preoccupation of the Party managers and – there was exactly nothing to cover, nothing to transmit, and nothing to write about ...

What a Lot of Parties

Christopher Hitchens: Diana Mosley, 30 September 1999

Diana Mosley: A Biography 
by Jan Dalley.
Faber, 297 pp., £20, October 1997, 0 571 14448 9
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... been among his last efforts. The one from his fragrant wife survives, and reads as follows: Mr Hitchens, in his attack upon me, says that I regretted the defeat of Germany in the Second World War. On the contrary, in my view the greatest tragedy for us would have been the defeat of our own country. My opposition to the war in 1939 was based on the fact, as ...

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