As a British-American critic, essayist and all-purpose iconoclast, you are known as one of the defining voices of the new atheism. But your just-published memoir, “Hitch-22,” is in fact an exercise in worship — male hero worship. Is it fair to say that you look upon the British novelist Martin Amis as the Messiah?
No, to the contrary. That’s exactly what would make us both throw up. Trust is not the same as faith. A friend is someone you trust. Putting faith in anyone is a mistake.
Yet you seem to put unshakable faith in your guy friends, including Salman Rushdie and the poet James Fenton, who receive chapters of their own, while your two wives and three children are almost completely ignored.
The book is a memoir. It’s not an autobiography.
What did you mean to suggest by including the detail about your long-ago flings with two men who became part of Margaret Thatcher’s administration?
There are still people who want to criminalize homosexuality one way or another, and I thought it might be useful if more heterosexual men admitted that they are a little bit gay, as is everyone, and that homosexuality is a form of love and not just sex.
Not everyone is “a little bit gay,” as you say. Do you think your basic sexual confusion underlies your political confusions?
No, I wouldn’t call it confusion. I’d call it a punctuated consistency. I argue in the book that my principles were the same throughout.
You’re a Washington-based polemicist who has written in support of the Iraq war but who was previously a self-described socialist with a column in The Nation. Why do you see yourself as consistent?
I still think like a Marxist in many ways. I think the materialist conception of history is valid. I consider myself a very conservative Marxist.
The most memorable person in your new bookis probably your mother, Yvonne, a British milliner whose Jewish identity remained a secret even to her husband until after her death. Why do you think she raised you as a churchgoing Christian?
My mother had resolved to shelter my brother and me from being given a hard time when we were growing up.
What does that say about England?
Nothing too terrible, in my opinion. In Britain, it’s not too terrible to be Jewish. British society has been enormously more hospitable than Russia, Germany, Poland or France.
Your mother committed suicide, in a pact with a lover, in 1973. Did she suffer from lifelong depression?
No. I think she was having a bad menopause, and she was losing her looks, which were pretty impressive.
Menopause is hardly an explanation for suicide. Do you think your mother’s discomfort with religion pushed you either consciously or not to become a champion of atheism?
There is absolutely no traceable connection between Yvonne’s Jewishness and my early and continuing failure to be able to regard other primates as divine or as mammalian messengers of the divine will. The failure is innate in me.
Why did you choose to write a memoir?
I suppose the effect of becoming 60 on me was stronger than I thought it was going to be. I took it quite heavily and began to review my life a lot more than I had before.
Did you write the book for money?
Of course, I do everything for money. Dr. Johnson is correct when he says that only a fool writes for anything but money. It would be useful to keep a diary, but I don’t like writing unpaid. I don’t like writing checks without getting paid.
I trust you answer the e-mail of your friends at no charge.
I haven’t got to the point yet where phone calls and e-mails are billable, but I am working on it. That would be happiness defined for me. What I’m hoping is to get a 900 number, so I can tell all my friends, “Call me back on my 900 number: 1-900-HITCH22.” I can talk for a long time.
But who would want to listen?
That would be the 900-number test.
I can't decide if I want to read this. I usually find Hitchens's writing amusing to read (would have linked this but it's way too big) even though he's a tremendous asshole, but a whole book of him talking about himself would possibly drive me to violence. what do you guys think??