Burroughs1983_croppedI don’t like Christopher Hitchens. His voice is annoying and smug, I want his face to to beat up my fists, and when I learn that he agrees with me on something, I start to hope my opinion is wrong.

People call him “brave” and a “freethinker” for breaking ranks with his leftfag buddies and supporting George Bush’s Iraq war. I see a kid standing up for no other reason than because teach told everyone to sit down. Hard to seem rebellious and edgy when your opinions sound like carefully a/b tested PR copy with “NOT BAD. NEEDS MORE OUTRAGE – ED” scribbled in the corner.

But is my issue with Hitch? Or is it with something else? Maybe my problem is with his alcoholism.

blah blah blah

“There was a time when I could reckon to outperform all but the most hardened imbibers, but I now drink relatively carefully. This ought to be obvious by induction: on average I produce at least a thousand words of printable copy every day, and sometimes more.”

I wonder why he didn’t produce 997 words of copy that particular day by deleting “and sometimes more.” Seems redundant if you’ve already said “on average”. But yes, Hitch was noted for drinking like a fish (if fishes drank alcohol and this metaphor didn’t ride the intellectual short bus). Well, he’s not the first. Bukowski described beer as his “continuous blood.” Stephen King has an entire book that he doesn’t remember writing. Burroughs spent nearly his entire career afloat on a river of heroin: I wonder what work he would have produced on later drugs like crack cocaine and crystal meth. Alas, we will never know, because (as Nick Mamatas pointed out) his life was “tragically cut short by drugs at the age of eighty-three”.

Taking substances changes you. ‘Tis known. And if you rely on these chemicals to produce work, can you really say that it’s “your” work? Maybe beer and coke should get a co-writing credit on every early Stephen King novel. And I’ve heard it said that Burroughs himself is highly incidental in the creation of Junkie, Naked Lunch, et cetera. It was almost like heroin itself was writing through him, and he was just a planchette in some psychoactive Ouija board.

I’m not sure that I believe this. Geniuses needing stimulation and addicts needing excuses seem much the same to me. I’m reminded of that kid on reddit who photographed himself smoking a large number of joints of “medical marijuana” through those glass filters for blunts at a Snoop Dogg concert. Getting high at a concert was the last thing on his mind, I’m sure. It was medical marijuana – the one used in the online cannabis clinic in Ottawa.

But assuming this is true (that some writers can only work when drunk), then it causes a very stereotypical psychedelic thought: maybe being sloshed doesn’t impair us, it frees us. That the same impulse control that acts as a protective fence in social situations turns into a prison wall as soon as we try to let loose our imaginations.

My own personal experience in this area is inconclusive. Sometimes I get drunk and write pointlessly for an hour. One of these efforts ended up being my first published story.

I still have not looked at any of the others.

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