Write By Reading #1: Christopher Hitchens on Tea
If you’re reading this that means one of two things:
- You stumbled upon this somehow, in which case, don’t worry about this. It’s for a thing. I mean hang out if you want, but this sorta has a specific purpose.
- I told you to read this because I need you to know how to write really quick. In which case, cool. Oh, and if you’re from the first group, yeah. That’s what’s going on here. I need a bunch of people to know to write real quick. Just google me or whatever if you want to know more, honestly I don’t care.
Alright punks, so you reading this ’cause you gotta know how to write.
Damn that was a good intro. Already you know what’s good and are ready for the condescending tone to follow. I am so good at this shit.
Wow, back-to-back good grafs. That means paragraphs. Keep up. You are going to learn to write so well after I am through with you.
Here’s how you write.
- Use a keyboard to make a bunch of words that if you read them they sound like you talk
- You type shit into the internet at all? Fb posts? Comment threads? All that? Okay, we’re gonna start with that as a foundation, because you do that way more than you write essays
- Structure’s harder, but don’t worry. That’s what’s going on here right now.
This shit here is where I’m gonna show you essays until you know how to write. First one is by this dead fuck named Christopher Hitchens.
Everybody agrees that he’s an asshole. He supported the Iraq War. He hated Muslims. Read too much. But he’s British, and them dudes can put together an essay. This shit called, “How To Make a Decent Cup of Tea.”
I know you wanna dive right into this shit, you precocious little thing, but I’m gonna lay out a little more context. This shit appeared in Slate, which was like one of the first web only magazines. It sucks, but it was the original clickbait, back in the mid 2000’s or whenever these dudes got started. Also mad contrarian, but that’s beside the point. I learned to read articles by getting super in Slate when I was fifteen, because my life was wall to wall garbage.
That seems like some offhand shit, but it’s actually really good. It tells you what to expect of the average Slate reader.
Now, this Hitchens fella wasn’t shit until after 2001, when he got a ride on the richest gravy train in town: 9/11. He wrote a book about how there would be no 9/11 if it wasn’t for religion, and made a bunch of money telling people who agree that God’s not real. When Slate picked him up, he was their biggest name by a wide margin, and as such, could write whatever sort of trash he liked and they’d have to print it because they were still happy to have him. And the readers, the poor morons, were happy to have him, too.
Okay, you’re up to speed. Anyway, all this shit counts, so pay attention:
Title, as we said, “How To Make a Decent Cup of Tea.”
Subtitle, “Ignore Yoko Ono and John Lennon, and heed George Orwell’s tea-making advice.”
What the fuck’s going on there, right? We mentioned a Beatle, his universally hated wife, and George Orwell. Now, the first thing to know about Hitchens is that he was a amoral monster who used atheism as cover for his bottomless prejudice. He hated all sorts of people on the grounds that they were religious, which meant they were stupid at best and probably going to destroy Western civilization through head scarves. Conveniently, most people — and specifically most poor people — are religious as fuck. So that worked out for him. But the second thing to know about our boy Hitchens is that he loved the shit out of George Orwell. See, Orwell (the dude who wrote 1984, you went to high school, you know what’s up) apparently hated fascists. And Hitchens hated Muslims, a lot of them he called Islamofascists, and a lot more he called appeasers of Islamofascism. Which is to say, he hated all Muslims.
So, we haven’t even got to the article, and we know what’s coming. Some celebration of the genius of Orwell and that of his ideological descendants (e.g., Hitchens), which will be revealed in his opinions about making tea. Obviously (it should be obvious) this article has nothing to do with tea. It’s all about Hitchens being so dope, because he learned from Orwell, who is infallible, hence his unassailable opinions on tea.
Hitchens contrasts Orwell (that is, himself) with Lennon and Ono, who are still so stupid and uneducated that despite their wealth and power can’t pull of a decent cup of darjeeling. But through Hitchens, even lowly Slate readers — even fifteen-year-olds — can glance at the ecstasy and bounty of his scholarship.
Okay, we better speed it up, because I know y’all got shit to do. Here’s the first “graf”:
It goes on for a while, but it don’t matter. Apparently John fucked up the tea, and Hitchens spends the next paragraph explaining why he’s wrong. I would move on right now, but there’s one good joke, where he says, “a herb (or an herb if you insist)”, which is about the difference between British and American pronunciation of “herb”, which he has indicated with the indefinite article. It adds nothing to the discussion, but it makes him look smart, which is always one of his core points. And, also… ah, shucks, it’s a solid joke.
Onward to Orwell.
Are you reading along? Do that. The link is up there, or right here. Just get as far as the bit about the admissibility of sugar tea. Does this shit all seem incredibly pointless? To the untrained ear, I’m sure it does. It almost seems like a highly paid Slate contributor is going over the steps in making a cup of tea, with advice he’s cribbed from an Orwell piece that was superfluous when it was published half a century ago. But that’s only because you don’t hate yourself. However, the Slate reader, so complete in his self-abasement, is attuned to the quietist stirrings which might portend intelligence, the only thing that can liberate him from his condition. (The people who read this would later vote for Obama, to give you an idea of who we’re dealing with.)
A trained sadist will note how Hitchens makes a big deal of how smart Orwell is. Watch as he tips-toes around his master’s “golden rule” that tea should not be sweetened. (You got that far, right?) Hitchens, in what passes for him as speaking truth to power, suggests that sometimes brown sugar or honey are permissible.
Next comes what people who know a lot of poetry call the volta, the bit where everything changes. Like remember when you do battle with Lavos in Chrono Trigger? This is like the bit where you bust off the shell and fight him in his true form, and the music changes, and you’re like, aww shit, let’s get ready to fucken destroy! Already, the fight against the ignorance of John and Yoko has become a battle against the ignorance of the Slate readership. Now the Joseph Campbell Hero’s Journey is coming to a close, when you, the reader, are invited to join in the battle against bad tea! Stupid Americans, you think, how the shame washes over me as I remember being so blind. Oh, praise Hitchens, for helping us commit to memory the wisdom he has learned in his study of Orwell.
He names our enemy: the United States of America, and its ordinary citizens who allow themselves to be served tepid flower water by Starbucks. (He sure got a number on your prejudices, huh?) But as I was saying, all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.
But Hitchens has anointed you to a soldier for decent tea. See that? How we went from teasing Yoko Ono to sending you on beverage jihad? Well, that’s Hitchens, friend.
Okay did your ass get anything out that? Because I broke that whole thing down pretty solid.
Look, here are the rules:
- Write like you talk. Like, you know how you’re super funny and concise when you’re trying to get laid? Do that!
- Have some respect for the reader, who might also not be getting laid because you’re not saying stuff quick enough.
The rules weren’t exactly like that earlier, and I think there was another one, but the point stands: be good at writing.