Bite the Hand That Feeds You


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Essays and Provocations

Henry Fairlie; Edited and with an introduction by Jeremy McCarter; Foreword by Leon Wieseltier

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Henry Fairlie was one of the most colorful and trenchant journalists of the twentieth century. The British-born writer made his name on Fleet Street, where he coined the term “The Establishment,” sparred in print with the likes of Kenneth Tynan, and caroused with Kingsley Amis, among  many others. In America his writing found a home in the pages of the New Yorker and other top magazines and newspapers. When he died, he was remembered as “quite simply the best political journalist, writing in English, in the last fifty years.”

Remarkable for their prescience and relevance, Fairlie’s essays celebrate Winston Churchill, old-fashioned bathtubs, and American empire; they ridicule Republicans who think they are conservatives and yuppies who want to live forever. Fairlie is caustic, controversial, and unwavering—especially when attacking his employers. With an introduction by Jeremy McCarter, Bite the Hand That Feeds You restores a compelling voice that, among its many virtues, helps Americans appreciate their country anew.

Born in England, Henry Fairlie (1924–1990) was a frequent contributor to newspapers and magazines including the Washington Post and the New Republic. Jeremy McCarter is a senior writer at Newsweek. He lives in New York.

"If you doubt that political essays can induce something like ecstasy, I have three names for you. George Orwell, of course. Dwight Macdonald. And Henry Fairlie—who, with this book, may finally get his due."—Hendrik Hertzberg, senior editor, The New Yorker

“Henry Fairlie was always an inspiration: a rebel, a Tory bohemian, an Oakeshottian, a conversationalist and a merry drunk. He cared more about America than most Americans and wrapped it in a Burkean passion few can equal. This book brings him back to life—and reminds me why we need his like today just as urgently as ever.”—Andrew Sullivan, senior editor, The Atlantic

"In 32 timely and relentlessly witty essays, ranging from the political ('A Cheer for American Imperialism') to the whimsical ('The Importance of Bathtubs'), Fairlie proves why he was widely considered to be one of the best multidisciplinary journalists of the last 50 years."  — The Village Voice

“McCarter offers Fairlie in full, as far as is probably possible."—Sean Wilentz, Princeton University

"I read Bite the Hand That Feeds You. And I'm better and wiser for it. . . . It would have been nice to have had Henry Fairlie around during the Cheney presidency. It's a comfort to have the next best thing." — Tim Heffernan,

"Happy is the occasion when a publisher sees fit to gather and gift-wrap a bouquet as fragrant and resplendent as Henry Fairlie's political journalism.  A Grub Street transplant, Fairlie brought to America a fluency in history and prose, a jagged wit, a newcomer's affection for the New World, and a set of self-destructive life-style habits charming only in hindsight. We could use more of his kind. . . . This smartly edited collection gets him at his best. . . . Fairlie's take-down of George Will is a real joy."  —The New Yorker

"One of journalism's great iconoclasts."--The Daily Beast

"Written in (almost) unfailingly superb English, [Fairlie's essays] retain their appeal mostly because they display a sort of romantic Toryism and yet contain a celebration of American individualism. . . . The word 'raffish' might have been coined for him." —Christopher Hitchens, The New York Times Book Review

"Jeremy McCarter of Newsweek has done a judicious job assembling the contents. . . . It all remains fresh and reading through it is like attending a circus."—James Boylan, Columbia Journalism Review

“And buy Jeremy McCarter's wonderful new collection of some of Henry's greatest pieces — journalism at its finest and crispest and bravest.” — Andrew Sullivan, The Daily Dish ( blog)

‘These selections from [Fairlie’s] writings…are welcome and should be pondered by anyone who cares about British domestic politics of the past half a century.’—Paul Johnson, Standpoint

“Display[s] Fairlie’s wit, fluent prose, principled conservatism and love of the United States.”--New  York Times Book Review


"This fascinating book allows us to judge how far his admirers were justified.  It might also prompt some reflections on the nature of conservatism, of journalism, and of out trade's equivalent of the poète maudit: the myth of the heroic but doomed scribbler." —Geoffrey Wheatcroft, Harper's Magazine

“Bite The Hand That Feeds You…gathers 300 pages of [Fairlie’s] writings, some from London, some from Washington, others, unrealised fragments too good to lose.”—Edward Pearce, Tribune
ISBN: 9780300164602
Publication Date: May 25, 2010
368 pages, 5 1/2 x 8 1/4
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