Magazine article The Nation

Cat's Paw

Magazine article The Nation

Cat's Paw

Article excerpt

People have been asking me about Christopher Hitchens's odd remarks about me and Stalinism last week, and I tell them the truth, which is that much of Christopher's stuff lately has been written by a cat called Flashman.

For the past few months Hitchetis has had occasion to do some )f his writing in the basement of a house in Georgetown owned by some elderly and respectable relatives of mine. This same basement had hitherto been the exclusive lair of Flashman, a thoughtful creature, also of advancing years, now at work on his memoirs.

Flashman has known Hitchens for about a decade, has taken a fatherly interest in his career and, when times were hard, has shared with him his daily platter of Tender Vittles.

It won't have escaped the attentive reader that there has been something off-key aboat a few of Christopher's columns of late, and in a recent phone conversation with Flashman I learned the reason. He had, said Flashman, ob- served, with mounting concern the harried demeanor of his overworked guest, sometimes overtaken by exhaustion even as the deadline neared. Several months ago, Flashman confessed, he had been sufficiently worried about imminent deadlines to knock out" a column "the way Hitchens would probably have written it" and fax it Up to The Nation. On awakening, Christopher had been tearfully grateful and had agreed that it should remain "our little secret." Having had a bit of help myself from Flashman a couple of times, I said I could understand the advantages of the arrangement.

Things had begun to go wrong, apparently, when Flashman had to work off some quick notes prepared for a column on abortion. …

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