I Just Prefer ‘Xanthic’ to ‘Yellow’

Over at The Atlantic, we have Hitchens:


How is Mrs. Columbo?

on Edmund Burke:


Now that’s dignity. Chubby dignity.

This I enjoyed because it quotes huge chunks of Burke: after too long reading journalism, web stutters, and the novels of our decadent age, those huge, complicated, well-ordered sentences were a thrill.

Not so enjoyable is that it takes the Conor Cruise O’Brien line on everyone’s favourite c. 18th mick on the make.

And of course, Hitchens is bothersome. I’m still a fan of his style, because/although it’s got the tang of bright, slightly facile Oxford tutorial essay prose (always the temptation to grade his work): but politically, he’s been a frustration. Obviously he went the wrong way on the war, and then there’s his contribution to the current cult of Orwell.

I’ve only had time for a brief glance over The Betrayal of Dissent (from the very, very good folk at Pluto), but it looks both good and useful. Orwell’s a problematic influence on contemporary political literature: he’s used as some kind of touchstone for ‘decent’ left liberalism, with Aaronvitch and Hitchens both imputing Communist zombifaction to anyone who doesn’t support their (bullshit alert level: deep brown) brave and independent stands against left-wing herd mentality.

Another major problem with this is that everyone gets on their fucking high horse, and discounts the opinion of any mid-century author who failed to shout abuse at both Stalin and Hitler.

That problem’s also there in that whole miserable dullness about Orwell. Allegories are shit and boring (see future post, to be called ‘Allegories are Shit and Boring’), one of the worst diseases of the English protestant imagination. And then there’s that bloody essay which gets trotted out every time someone wants to argue for dulling down the language. It seems a guide on how to cripple style: he wants to cut the legs from under luxuriance, redundancy, flair, and fun, many of which are virtues that help us fight a rationalised, ugly world.