WYSO

Best of the Book Nook: A Long Short War: The Postponed Liberation of Iraq, by Christopher Hitchens

Jul 2, 2018

Over the years that I have been interviewing authors on WYSO I have made some observations about writers. One thing I have noticed is that there are a variety of trajectories that a person's career can take. I have interviewed many people who were just starting out and in most cases, barely being noticed. Then we can go to the other end of that potential trajectory to find the writers who have had that one big book, now years in the past, still hoping to rise to those heights once again and sometimes, with bitterness, bemoaning the declines of their careers.

Then there is every possible trajectory in between. I can usually book interviews with authors who are just starting out. Sometimes I can obtain interviews with writers who are actively enjoying massive successes. Although authors who consistently sell a lot of books are much harder to track down. James Patterson has sold over 350 million books. I have never tried to book an interview with him. He's actually a rarity for someone so popular, I have been offered interviews with him. But I have never followed up on those offers because I didn't want to become like Charlie Brown as Lucy holds the football for him, sure, we'll let you kick it this time! I understood that any offers of interviews with him were probably generic and could quickly be withdrawn upon the realization by the publicist that I'm just some guy hosting a book show in Yellow Springs, Ohio and I'm probably too insignificant to merit a booking with someone of his stature.

I understand all that. But sometimes I get lucky. In 2003 I booked a phone interview with an author who had been quite famous but he had hit a bit of a trough in his career at that time. Christopher Hitchens was an iconoclast, to say the least. His punditry had earned him fame but in 2003 his reputation had taken a large hit. Hitchens had previously been associated with the left, mostly, and he had come out in favor of the invasion of Iraq and the "regime change" being enacted under President George W. Bush. At that point his progressive base of readers had begun to shun him and the neo-conservatives who had been so intent upon overthrowing the Iraqi dictator didn't quite know what to make of Hitchens. He had just published a collection of essays related to his views about Iraq and I saw my opportunity to have him on the show.

He honored the interview request. He was engaging and entertaining and that was my one opportunity to interview him. I had gotten lucky. His best-seller "God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything" was still a few years ahead of him. Later on Hitchens rose out of his career trough and became popular again with a certain type of reader. Eight years after this conversation he became quite ill and died of the same thing that had killed his father; esophageal cancer. He reminded me a bit of the late William F. Buckley. Whether you agreed or disagreed with Buckley or Hitchens you had to agree about one thing, that these men had possessed brilliant minds. 

The Book Nook on WYSO is presented by the Greene County Public Library with additional support from Washington-Centerville Public Library,  Clark County Public LibraryDayton Metro Library, and Wright Memorial Public Library.