Thursday, July 08, 2010

Christopher Hitchens' brilliant squirrel analogy

So, with a sigh I admit to my little crush on Christopher Hitchens which is only exacerbated in the reading of his most excellent memoir.  For example, Christopher Hitchens on Americanism, as viewed from post-war Britain:

"Americanism in all its forms seemed to be trashy and wasteful and crude, even brutal. There was a metaphor ready to hand in my native Hampshire. Until some time after the war, the squirrels of England had been red. I can still vaguely remember these sweet Beatrix Potter–type creatures, smaller and prettier and more agile and lacking the rat-like features that disclose themselves when you get close to a gray squirrel. These latter riffraff, once imported from America by some kind of regrettable accident, had escaped from captivity and gradually massacred and driven out the more demure and refined English breed. It was said that the gray squirrels didn't fight fair and would with a raking motion of their back paws castrate the luckless red ones. Whatever the truth of that, the sighting of a native English squirrel was soon to be a rarity, confined to the north of Scotland and the Isle of Wight, and this seemed to be emblematic, for the anxious lower middle class, of a more general massification and de-gentrification and, well, Americanization of everything."

From Hitch-22: A Memoir by Christopher Hitchens .
And more on squirrel terrine can be found here.


lucia said...

Benjamin Franklin was one of the 'riff raff' that would bring tame squirrels to England as presents! The slang term for a squirrel was skugg; and he wrote an epitaph for a child's deceased squirrel, "Here lies skugg, snug as a bug in a rug" - first use of phrase?? I'm too lazy to google this and rewrite the comment, but anyway, he is one of those responsible...the castration of reds (Sciurus vulgaris) by eastern grays (Sciurus carolinensis) (or in the US, of eastern grays by reds, Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) is a myth, though... by the way, I'm an animal behaviorist who studies squirrels, which is why I know much too much squirrel trivia!

AQ: said...

I just ordered this on Amazon yesterday... Can't wait!