Wednesday, November 14, 2007


Hitchens, in one of his few remaining tolerable roles (that of lit. critic), on the passing of Norman Mailer:

His masterpiece, at least in my opinion, is Harlot's Ghost (1991), a historic fictionalizing of the national-security state that came very near to realizing the Balzacian ambition that he had conceived for it. What a shame that it was so dismally received by the critics and that he never delivered the second volume of it that he had promised. Instead, he frittered away a good part of the last two decades in half-baked essays and fictions on liberation theology—of all sorry things—and callow stuff on George Bush as the macho man gone wrong.

I think Mailer penned enough trash to have busied an army of mutant paper-eating goats for millennia, but I, too, loved Harlot's Ghost, and lament its lack of a sequel.


casey said...

I think it's crazy that the Hitchens thinks "Harlot's Ghost" is Mailer's best. I mean, I love it, but it isn't so much of a *literary* masterpiece as it is an achievement in research compiled by personal assistants.

Ah, Hitchens. Part of me wants him to stuff a sock in it. But he also likes "His Dark Materials," and that's cool by me.

Nyarlathotep said...

I read Harlot's Ghost in '91, and have never re-read it, but I still remember bits and pieces. I doubt at that at that time I was capable of judging its 'literary' merits. It was certainly the best novel of the CIA/Cold War I'd read, and I haven't read a better since.

I found HG much more interesting as a whole than The Naked and the Dead.

Nyarlathotep said...

And as for Hitchens? All of me wishes he'd stuff a sock in it. I should have popped him in the jaw years ago when I had the chance. But he was trashing Mother Theresa so eloquently (and drunkenly) that I was practically swooning.

casey said...


PS: Your comments about HG were the same ones I made to my wife immediately after leaving my first comment. Haven't read it since '92 or '93, and am likewise unable to judge its merits. But have heard it was (Harlot's!) ghost written.