Sunday, February 03, 2013

Opuscular: a perfectly cromulent expression

Now look, if a Times drudge is going to review Unhitched, the least he could do is hack my emails and try to find out what the book is about.  Sadly, but predictably, the pattern with Hitchens's acolytes is to entirely ignore the book's contents, to the point of being conspicuously vacuous.  The winning formula: a series of genuflections to the deceased sandwiched between petulant and pissy observations about the book's uppity author that, one supposes, are intended to put him back in his box.  One example will suffice, since it happens to be among the few minor points where the book's contents are discussed:

The worst thing about Seymour’s book is that he thinks he writes as well as Hitchens, with embarrassing consequences. It may be true that Hitchens’s book on Thomas Paine was not his finest, but would anyone with English as a first language suggest it should be classed as “a somewhat opuscular component of the Hitchensian oeuvre”? 

Heartbreaking stuff.  In response to this scathing indictment, I can only offer two defenses.  The first is that the sentence fragment quoted is both written in perfect English, and uses its adjectives appropriately.  That is, the searing rhetorical question fails by inviting the obvious answer: "yes".  The second is that in the original, the quoted words are embedded in a discussion of Hitchens's tendency to plagiarise other works.  The main point being made about the book on Paine, is that much of it is plagiarised.  I don't make much of this fact, or claim any originality in making it.  But it happens to be a fact, and a rather more salient one than that which gets the reviewer's dander up.  You see what I mean: they'd rather talk about anything than the contents of the book.

Another salient fact, I suppose, is that I'm getting an intimate education in both sides of the old saw that there is no such thing as bad publicity.  On the one hand, there plainly is.  I think this point needs no elaboration.  On the other, every spittle-lathered review of Unhitched by one of the unhitched actually results in a gratifying improvement in the book's sales figures.  I'd like to see much, much more of this.  But I'd also like a proper review by someone who has read the book.