Feb 5, 2023Liked by Charles Schifano

Your piece calls up a contrary view in the late Christopher Hitchens, who was no slouch of a writer. I’ve read accounts of his seemingly effortless ability to drink like a fish and then sit down and bang out a brilliant essay before deadline. Where Didion labored, Hitchens flowed. Or so it appeared. But perhaps Hitchens wasn’t writing his best? Maybe he was just proficient, and if he’d been more sober and managed his time better some of those essays would have truly soared? But then Hitchens was more about politics and polemics compared to Didion’s deep eloquence.

Expand full comment

It is a good question. My sense is that more time or deliberation wouldn't have helped his work. That's partly because his writing voice was so similar to his speaking voice, so slowing down his writing would have been a constraint in the same way that being asked to speak 'differently' would harm pronunciation. But that's certainly individual. It depends on the writer and I don't think you get to choose your category. Separately, I agree that he mostly wrote about politics in a polemic style, but I certainly prefer his literary writing—the book reviews and the essays about culture or history.

Expand full comment