Commenting acidly on a writer whom I perhaps too naively admired, my old classics teacher put on his best sneer to ask: 'Wouldn't you say, Hitchens, that his writing was somewhat ?' This lofty schoolmaster employed my name sarcastically, and stressed the last term as if he meant it to sting, and it rankled even more than he had intended. Later on in life, I found that I still used to mutter and improve my long-meditated reply. Émile Zola—a journalist. Charles Dickens—a journalist. Thomas Paine—another journalist. Mark Twain. Rudyard Kipling. George Orwell—a journalist . Somewhere in my cortex was the idea to which Orwell himself once gave explicit shape: the idea that 'mere' writing of this sort could aspire to become an art, and that the word 'journalist'—like the ironic modern English usage of the word 'hack'—could lose its association with the trivial and the evanescent.