“The Last Interview and Other Conversations” by Christopher Hitchens with an introduction by Stephen Fry, Melville House, 178 pages, $15.99 paperback.
The first and most important thing about this new paperback is that it’s part of a long series from Melville House of “Last Interview” books. In the past, they’ve collected late-period interviews from an immense variety of people: from David Bowie, Nora Ephron, Lou Reed, and David Foster Wallace to Ernest Hemingway, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Jorge Luis Borges, Hannah Arendt and Jane Jacobs.
When Dorothy Parker, famously, lamented her wisecracking reputation by observing “remarks are not literature” she wasn’t entirely right. It’s a tossup in the attentions of literary history between the works of Samuel Johnson and Boswell’s remark-filled life of Johnson. Christopher Hitchers was, under any and almost all circumstances a writer of astonishing facility, elegance, erudition and polemic authority. He was also a merry journalistic troublemaker from Day One, a man capable of attracting readers by deconstructing the life and work of Mother Theresa and claiming that women weren’t funny.
If he were any more serious about his soulless indulgences in contrariness and attention-getting, he’d have found himself entirely unforgivable after his 2011 death--in particular, for what seemed like a neo-conservative agenda.
Instead, what many have long realized is that for Hitchens, his “remarks”--reckless, eloquent, stately, profound, tendentious and otherwise -- could be amassed into a kind of literature of its own.
So what you have here are: Hitchens talking media with Carl Rutan in 1987, Mother Theresa in 1996 with Matt Cherry, Literature in 2005 with J.C. Gabel and James Hughes (“Write as if it’s your last words” he wrote before his death turned his actual last words into a national bestseller) and the middle east with, yes, Jon Stewart of “The Daily Show” in 1995.
His actual last interview here before his 2011 death is with scientist and fellow atheist Richard Dawkins in that year. “I have one consistency, which is [being] against the totalitarian -- on the left and the right.”