a dinosaur skull in his skull

For all the talk of draining the swamp, a fair number of older establishment Republicans who took a gamble on Donald Trump are now being rewarded in office. In recent months the London Review of Books has been promoting pieces from its archive1 on the past exploits of these various deplorables. Something in particular that caught my eye was this 1995 review by Christopher Hitchens of a book by Newt Gingrich, then Speaker of the House. It’s nice to be reminded of what a remarkable writer Hitchens was, whatever his personal and ideological faults.

Here’s Hitchens on Gingrich’s habit of bringing up dinosaurs at every opportunity:

Still, are we supposed to dislike a writer with such a boyish love for dinosaurs? These great lizards are to Gingrich a sort of King Charles’s Head: he can’t keep them out of the narrative. Recently, when he found the tempestuous Melanie Griffith in a House corridor (she was there to lobby against the cancellation of funding for public television and the arts: another joint Gingrich-Murdoch enterprise), the Speaker crept up and asked ‘Would you like to see my dinosaur?’ He has a Tyrannosaurus Rex skull in his office. He has a Tyrannosaurus Rex skull in his skull: ‘Just list some of the changes we are living through: laptop computers, cellular telephones, molecular medicine, new discoveries about the dinosaurs, home security systems that talk, composite materials that make cars lighter, micro-engineering, manufacturing in space, high definition television, the video store – the list goes on and on.’

He has a Tyrannosaurus Rex skull in his skull, what a gorgeous line. I’ve been trying to get better at writing lately, but I know I’ll never be able to write like that. There’s a lot more to good writing than the odd great line of course, but I’d sure be pleased to write something like that every now and again.

  1. Most of the archive is only available to LRB subscribers, but these promoted pieces are free. The archive is a wonderful bonus if you are a subscriber, there’s some brilliant stuff in there. ↩︎

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