Cosy Moments Cannot be Muzzled: Censorship in an Age of Freedom

3:AM carries my review of Nick Cohen’s excellent free speech polemic. The book is dedicated to Christopher Hitchens, who never got a chance to read it. But the great man’s angry spirit haunts its pages.

My title comes from a Hitchens essay on Fleet Street journalism. Looking back over his own adventures as a working newspaperman, Hitchens pays tribute to an early P G Wodehouse novel, PSmith, Journalist:

The near-unchallenged master of English prose sets this adventure in New York, where Psmith pays a social visit that acquires significance when he falls in with the acting editor of the floundering journal Cosy Moments. The true editor being absent on leave, Psmith beguiles the weary hours by turning the little weekly into a crusading organ that comes into conflict with a thuggish slumlord. Threats and violence from the exploiters (which at one point lead to bullets flying and require Psmith to acquire a new hat) are met with a cool insouciance. A fighting slogan is evolved. ‘Cosy Moments,’ announces its new proprietor, ‘cannot be muzzled.’ He addresses all his friends and staff by the staunch title of ‘Comrade’. At the close, the corrupt city politicians and their gangland friends are put to flight, and Psmith hands back the paper to its staff. Some years ago, when I wrote a book for Verso (the publishing arm of the New Left Review), we were sued by some especially scabrous tycoons and our comradely informal slogan became, to the slight bewilderment of our lawyers, ‘Cosy Moments cannot be muzzled’.

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5 Responses to “Cosy Moments Cannot be Muzzled: Censorship in an Age of Freedom”

  1. paul murdoch Says:

    You like Wodehouse then? I could never get on with him, personally. Dunno what it is; I’ve laughed out loud reading Waugh, Anthony Powell even…Wodehouse always seems just too affected?
    Psmith pales in comparison to Scoop for me.
    It’s strange as I sometimes think I should prefer him; he was no snob; no elitist; far more scathing of the upper classes than Waugh; less desperate to belong and showed much more humanity…despite his curious wartime shenanigans.

    I think Waugh’s prose style and subtlety have a lot to do with it but ultimately, with Waugh, it’s the moments of magnificent and triumphal quietus, meticulously meted out coldly, cruelly and hilariously.

    I suppose your contrasting attitudes to Wodehouse and Waugh say a lot about you; ie. if you prefer Waugh, you have it in you to be a bit of a vicious cunt.

  2. paul murdoch Says:

    “…but I’m talking more about Hitchens than Wodehouse”

    indeed you are..but he’s gone and he didn’t write a novel, although his literary criticism was sublime…you read ‘unacknowledged legislators’?

    More to the point, there’s no successor? It’s not seamus milne, it’s never gonna be Laurie Penny, unless I’m penciled in as the next Dalai Lama, and the nearest, Nick Cohen kinda fits the bill but doesn’t have the connections or the human touch…except in a ‘theoretical’ sense…which, of course, doesn’t really count…or doesn’t count at all…here’s a thing, my missus used to work with him…’really nice guy but a bit weird’, apparently.

    Strangely enough, and it is strange…I’ve looked at plenty of blogs…you need to make a play. Dunno if you know anyone…but you can certainly write; you know a pile of shite when you read it, and compared to all the big name bloggers I’ve come across, we’re talking boys and men…sheep and goats, wheat and chaff, Barcelona-my over 35s pub team…and most importantly, you seem to believe in a determinate, objective ‘historical’ reality.

    I kinda get the feeling sometimes you’re swimming in treacle to put this thing out; to not enough popular acclaim.

    Never heard you mention him, but I’m kinda guessing you’ve read a fair bit of Vonnegut….you know the ‘yeast quote’?

    http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/show/13203

    Seriously…you can fuckin well write….as to why you’d prefer Wodehouse…maybe, when it comes down to it, you’re a better human being than a critic…and.. paradoxical, though it may sound, surely that makes you a better critic.

    • maxdunbar Says:

      I always wondered why Hitchens never wrote fiction. I think he thought he wasn’t good enough. I am only just really getting into Vonnegut – read only Slaughterhouse 5 and Breakfast of Champions, so far. But that quote is great. Thanks for your kind words

  3. paul murdoch Says:

    Nada

    I mean it…you deserve to get picked up. When I look at some of the crap that’s out there…

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