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“Cursed into Obscurity” Fred Inglis, Keith Miller and Alison Flood review Richard Seymour’s Unhitched

Intern Verso20 February 2013

Fred Inglis of the Independent recently reviewed Unhitched, a penetrating critique of the life and work of the late Christopher Hitchens. If you forgot what camaraderie looks like, here are a few extracts to remind you:

“Seymour is certainly master of the records; he knows the work closely and cites it scrupulously. But his headlong, foam-flecked interpretation, voiced in a manner recklessly close to Hitchens’s own but without the grace, the wit, the tearing high spirits and the faultless ear for the fall of cadence of his great original, becomes merely tedious, repetitive and unconvincing.”

And, further down, referring to Hitchens’s support of the war on terror, Inglis writes:

“Seymour is right to say that this melodramatic move was indeed characteristic. He is wrong and malicious, let alone poisonous in his use of casual innuendo, to try to turn such a public gesture into a consequence of deviousness everywhere discoverable in the conduct of the man, further contaminated by plagiarism, “terrific fibbing” and a zeal to make lots of money.”

For those that didn’t get it, Inglis inadvertently accepts Seymour’s verdict (that Hitchens was indeed a complaisant dogmatist, and theatrical in his ways), but is willing to quibble over the facts, namely, that Hitchens was indeed a habitual plagiarizer, a truth manipulator and, more noticeably than all of that, wealthy…

In a less impassioned display of woeful indignation, Keith Miller writes for the Telegraph:

“Seymour retains the straightedge habit of mistaking errors of judgment (the term of art is analysis) for flaws of character. The obvious thing to say about this well-argued but somewhat doughty books is that it is motivated by envy. […] But I think Seymour rather pitied Hitchens, as the married man pities the philanderer.”

Miller cites a number of cases where, on account of his otherwise worthy literary record, Seymour should have been more charitable and forgiving of his subject matter’s ideological and political misdemeanors and ends his review in a ‘no such thing as bad publicity’ crescendo:

“[…] the mere fact of being the subject of at least one posthumous book, even a thinnish book such as this, assures him a booth in the celestial dive bar that is the hack’s pantheon.”

Finally, Alison Flood‘s urgently titled piece “Christopher Hitchens Faces Posthumous ‘Prosecution’ in New Book" in the Guardian, announces the book and gives some interesting background stories to the publication, including one about the author’s email exchange with Hitchens himself.

Visit the Independent, the Telegraph and the Guardian to read the reviews in full.