Christopher Farnsworth

Author of Blood Oath, The Eternal World, and Killfile

Tag: christopher hitchens

Some Losses

Sometimes the holidays can seem a little dark. Maybe it’s the long nights catching up to all of us, but I think it has more to do with the contrasts. We put such great pressure on these days to be so bright and perfect that the regular blemishes of our lives stand out even more.

As a result, the genuine losses can seem so much deeper and more painful in this context. I am lucky, this year as always, that I’ve been given a respite from such pains, that I’m surrounded by so much. It seems worth mentioning the inspirations I’ve lost, along with the rest of the world, in the past few days. More importantly, it’s worth remembering the brightness each life carries, so that we can use it to keep ourselves warm in the cold places.

Christopher Hitchens was a man who could enrage me and entertain me, often at the same time. The Web is crawling with eulogies from those who knew him and those who didn’t. (In Hitchens’ spirit of argument, I offer one from his friend Christopher Buckley, and one from his former friend Alexander Cockburn.) I can only say I am sad that I will never again get to read a new Hitchens piece.  He was one of the best writers we had.

While Hitchens was a great writer, Vaclav Havel truly changed the world. He proved that a man could win against the grinding and crushing gears of a totalitarian regime armed with little more than grace and poetry. When everyone my age wanted to go to Prague, this was the guy we wanted to be. I have this same dog-eared copy of Esquire, and I read it from time to time when I need advice. Havel’s is especially powerful: “Never hope against hope.”

Joe Simon helped create Captain America. ‘Nuff said.

And Eduardo Barreto, a great artist who drew the hell out of a lot of comics, passed last week as well.

I didn’t know any of these men. But I will miss them all.

Field Notes on Literary Predators, and more.

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I admit, I am skeeved out by Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs in just the same way as Choire Sicha describes in this post from The Awl.

Those guys were all the worst. Setting aside the drugs and alcohol and their sons claiming to have been molested, at the age of 14, by friends of their father’s, and, yes, the wife-shooting, it’s also true that Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg (a NAMBLA member, lest we forget) and their gang—some of whom are somehow still living, so, let’s not name names—were literary rockstars who kept a steady supply of boy groupies as disposable sex toys.

I saw Ginsberg speak once, a few years before his death, and I recall he read a poem about one of those boy-toys; how he knew the kid wasn’t in it for love, that he was probably exploiting his target’s youth and inexperience, but fuck it, he was a famous poet, and this was one of the perks. I’m paraphrasing, yes, but I think I’m giving you a pretty good read on the intent, if not the actual text. Any respect or admiration I might have had for “Howl” went down the hall and flushed itself down a toilet right then. It’s been the main struggle of my life not to treat people as if they were things, and I foolishly expected someone who stood at the front of a sweeping tide of history to be there for more than the cheap feels.

This is perhaps why the Beats, like so many other relics of the Twentieth Century, work best as symbols on T-shirts. It’s not necessary to know what they actually did — in fact, that knowledge is an obstacle — to use them as a signifier of a cool, literary attitude toward life and/or sex, drugs and politics. The right-wing equivalent of praising the Beats at your first college party is telling a girl at a Young Republican meeting you’re really into Ayn Rand.

Also, On The Road is largely just unreadable dreck.

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The legendary Beau Smith on the joys of the iPad.

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Death and literature. Whatever you might think of Christopher Hitchens and his views, the man can write. His essay on entering “the land of malady” as a diagnosed cancer patient has, amazingly, found new things to say about mortality. Even more amazing, some of them are quite funny.

The new land is quite welcoming in its way. Everybody smiles encouragingly and there appears to be absolutely no racism. A generally egalitarian spirit prevails, and those who run the place have obviously got where they are on merit and hard work. As against that, the humor is a touch feeble and repetitive, there seems to be almost no talk of sex, and the cuisine is the worst of any destination I have ever visited.

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Eleven Bad Draculas.

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My brilliant wife noticed something fairly telling while reading People. (Before you judge: in L.A., People is the equivalent of the daily news.) The celeb rag did a feature on soldiers back from Afghanistan and Iraq. Then, on the very next page, in almost the same format, was a feature on the cast of “The Jersey Shore.” “Kids roughly the same age, same background,” Jean said. “But the difference in honor is like dropping off a cliff.”

I imagine some editor thought this would actually be a pretty neat trick: trying to see if it was possible to induce a nosebleed through sheer ethical contrast.

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Why You Should Read John Connolly.

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The man who developed the Cheez Doodle died. Cheez Doodles figured heavily in my first, thankfully forgotten novel. I especially loved the fact that on the back of the bags, it used to say, “DO NOT EXPOSE TO LIGHT.”

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At last: Venture Bros. Season 4.5 is on its way.

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Patton Oswalt has written a book. I have already ordered this, and so should you.