Who are you and what is The Pineapple?
I’m Dan Hitchens, a journalist whose work has appeared in various places including First Things, the New York Post, the Spectator, the Telegraph, the Times and UnHerd. In the fairly recent past I was editor of the Catholic Herald. In the more distant past I did a PhD on the 18th-century author Samuel Johnson, a guiding spirit for this newsletter. Living, like us, in an age when the number of publications had exploded, with articles, essays, hot takes, explainers everywhere begging for the reader’s attention, Johnson made an extremely helpful point:
The number of newsletters already published is so great, that there appears, at the first view, very little need of another; but the truth is, that this great number makes another necessary.
Well, he actually said “news-papers” not “newsletters”, but his reasoning is still sound. At a time of information overload, the reader needs a guide through the best that is currently being thought and said about ideas, power, language, culture and religion. That, along with my own writing, is what The Pineapple will offer.
I live, semi-reluctantly, in London. Nine years ago I became a Catholic. I am co-writing a book on – who else? – Samuel Johnson. I share the year of my birth with Dead Poets Society, Francis Fukuyama’s “The End of History?”, and the Stone Roses’ debut album, which has aged somewhat better than the rest of us.
Why the name?
1) It is both spiky enough to draw blood and sweet enough to give you a sugar rush – an aspiration any newsletter should aim for.
2) It has been both a luxury good – at one point, pineapples were rented out to add a touch of glamour to dinner-parties – and a mass-market product, which reflects my view that nothing is too good for the ordinary reader.
3) It is sometimes called the “flesh-eating fruit”, as it contains an enzyme which attacks the proteins on the inside of your mouth. This strategy – enticing the consumer and then eating them alive – is a useful model for the digital economy, and at some point The Pineapple may begin to charge. For now it’s all free.
4) The Pine Apple was a London tavern where a young-ish Samuel Johnson used to dine in his early years as a journalist. The regulars were, he recalled, “very good company”, although they “did not know one another’s names.”
Welcome, nameless reader.