"'Christopher Hitchens is a remarkable commentator. He jousts with fraudulence of every stripe and always wins. I regret he has only one life, one mind.' Joseph Heller; 'His allies, of whom I count myself one, rejoice in the sureness of his aim. May his targets cower.' Susan Sontag"
--This text refers to an alternate
In the fateful spring and early summer of 1940 the people of Britain clustered around their wireless sets to hear defiant and uplifting oratory from their new Prime Minister, Winston Churchill. Read the first page
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113 of 120 people found the following review helpful
Something to bewitch, bother, and bewilder everyoneApril 25 2005
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Christopher Hitchens is one of those writers whose prodigious output of letters, essays, and commentaries on the life, the universe, and everything is so pointed and provocative that he is capable of irritating anyone, sometimes repeatedly so, familiar enough with his work to have read more than just one of his essays. This should not be construed as a negative. In fact, if one is going to fall into paroxysms of anger or annoyance when reading an essay at the very least it should be well written, intelligent, and amusing. "Love, Poverty, and War" a collection of essays written by Christopher Hitchens has all three attributes in abundance and will please anyone willing to take the risk that his/her cultural or political icons may be subject to one of Hitchens' literary assaults.
As noted, Hitchens is prolific. The essays in this anthology were originally printed in The Atlantic, Slate, the Nation, Vanity Fair, the Weekly Standard, and the Times Literary Supplement among other publications. In addition the anthology includes prefaces that Hitchens has written for new editions of classic works of fiction such Saul Bellow's Adventures of Augie March and Aldous Huxley's Brave New World.
It is fair to say that Hitchens does not suffer fools or cultural icons gladly. In short order he takes aim at Winston Churchill, Mother Theresa, Noam Chomsky, Michael Moore, Mel Gibson, and allegedly oppressive no smoking regulations implemented by the Mayor of New York. Given the diversity of political and social views held by these subjects it is hard to accuse Hitchens of toeing a particular ideological line. One may wince, for example, when Hitchens takes on Churchill and then applaud when he eviscerates Chomsky. No matter whether one agrees with the substance of any particular essay it is hard to disagree with the intellect and writing style of the drafter. Hitchens' very success in advancing his point of view may explain the ferocity of the attacks upon him by those who have been subject to his rapier. Very few can best him intellectually (I certainly can't) or match the sheer breadth of the subjects he has no small amount of knowledge of. Of course the immediate reaction then becomes a personal attack on his motives.
I expected the book to be dominated by the political and literary commentary that marks most of his writings for the Atlantic and Salon. What both surprised and delighted me was Hitchens more apolitical essays. His journey on the tattered remains of Route 66 is a brilliant piece of writing. So to is his look at Hollywood's famous Sunset Boulevard.
I was also surprised by the depth of personal feelings and emotions that runs through many of Hitchens essays. This is no more apparent that Hitchens' post 9/11 essays. Hitchen's description of the deep-seated emotions that welled up in him after the attacks on his adopted country, particularly New York City is very moving. He spoke with a feeling for New York that only a true New Yorker can have. (Qualification for true New Yorker status is not limited to place of birth or length of residence. It is based purely on the quality of ones attachment to it.) This is Hitchens without the sarcasm and pointed wit. He speaks from the heart and it is quite moving.
All in all these essays have something to please and annoy just about everyone. Colette once said that the "writer who loses his self-doubt, who gives way as he grows old to a sudden euphoria, to prolixity, should stop writing immediately: the time has come for him to lay aside his pen." Hitchens may be prolific but he is far from prolix. I trust it will be a long time before he lays down his pen.
This book is recommended for anyone that admires good writing and who is not concerned about damaging any particular sacred cows.
30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
Take a journey through the exigencies of love, poverty and war with the acerbic essayist Brit native Christopher HitchensOct. 10 2006
C. M Mills
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Honesty is still the best policy even when written by a noted journalist living in Washington DC! Hitchens is an atheist, secularist and first class detector of hypocrisy, evil and deceit! You may not always agree with this 21st inheritor of the mantle of such writers as George Orwell but he will engage your mind, soul and heart!
This collection of essays culled from Hitchens' articles in Vanity Fair,
the Nation and other prominent venues for his talents is divided into three parts:
Part One-Hitchens gives us several book reviews of biographies of some of his favorite writers from Marcel Proust, Kingsley Amis; Graham Green; Aldous Huxley: James Joyce and Graham Greene. He also takes a look at the life of the Communist Trotsky. Hitchens evidences his broad literary learning in these brainy articles.
Part Two: In this section deemed "Americana" Hitchens takes to the wide open American road. We go down Sunset Boulevard with Billy Wilder; take a trip on what was once Route 66 and look at the laws governing New York City. We also read his reviews of Bob Dylan's oeuvre; discover the pleasures of Hitchens' appreciation of Saul Bellows' classic The Adventures of Augie March and revist the land of Civil War reenactors.
His review of the Martha Stewart empire is priceless. He also writes judicious and on target attacks on the likes of Michael Moore and Mel Gibson. Several other articles on figures from Mother Theresa (highly controversial) and the Dalai Lama are worth reading even if you disagree with them.
Part Three is the most poignant of the three sections of this large book.
In it Hitchens reports on the tragedy of 9-11; takes a well informed look at the gruesome situation in the Middle East and its horrible madmen incarnated in such tyrants as Ben Laden and Saddam Hussein.
41 of 48 people found the following review helpful
Excellent Book, As EverDec 27 2004
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I do love Hitchens, and I'm quite fond of his tone. I wholeheartedly recommend his work. While he's not entirely convincing on the "War" issue(I think his abstracting of a "theocratic fascist" enemy is a bit problematic), otherwise he's always tight and if nothing else, fun to read. He's a bit tedious in the last Orwell book, but his essays have no remotely blunt areas--i.e., very sharp-like, all the time.
As to the Dalai Llama issue raised at length below...let's see, "he has no right to denigrate our religion." No. No, that's objectively wrong. He has every right to denigrate your religion. Of course there's so many moral cowards running around right now, I can see why you'd think that. Nobody's ever bothered to denigrate your religion before. One would think there were a law against it, or something. Of course if you substitute the "religious" in "anti-religious bias" with "nonsense," as in "anti-nonsense bias," Hitchens' position may be more comprehensible.
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Classic HitchensOct. 3 2005
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If you want to know why Hitchens is such an in-demand writer, read this book. The man has an unrivalled talent for polemicism. If this means that his essay on, say, Mother Teresa comes across as a little over-the-top, so what? It's an antidote to everyone else's sheep-like adoration of the woman, usually unsupported by any knowledge of the facts of her life. That's the function of a contrarian, and Hitchens is the best in the business.
The book is not all polemicism - elsewhere Hitchens indulges in his love of literary criticism. Readers who wish to know the details of his conversion from opposing the first Gulf War to supporting the Iraq War will also find what they're looking for. If you want to buy just one Hitchens book, this is the one.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
anybody care to take on Hitchens?Oct. 18 2006
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Of all the people I have read sufficiently enough to judge, Christopher Hitchens is probably the one I would least like to debate. His knowledge about seemingly almost anything, his wit, his command of the language, and his taste for sanguinary conflict make Hitchens obviously a formidable foe. These previously published essays demonstrate him at full potency, and many still have plenty of bite years later. Hitchens must have had great satisfaction and anger at the same time when taking on Churchill, Mother Teresa, Michael Moore, Noam Chomsky, JFK, history teaching, and others.
The Churchill essay was a great surprise when first published in 2002, at least to many of us who placed Churchill among the greatest people of the 20th century. Except for Mother Teresa's, many of the other essays on individuals were less surprising in attitude and thesis, yet they usually made solid arguments, with potent and entertaining prose that sometimes verges on piling on the hapless victim.
The essays cover far more than just political topics. Book reviews and introductions to books form a nice diversion. In several cases, such as an essay on Waugh, I did not know enough to give the topic justice and skimmed on to another. The piece on Joyce for the 100th anniversary of Bloomsday may not quite provide the perspective you expected.
The biggest unanticipated delight was Hitchens' dip into some non-intellectual waters. The piece on Route 66 was exceptional, as was his meander along Sunset Blvd.
The section on War is both timely and dated. Hitchens' visit to North Korea in 2000 reads almost as current events here in 2006, with the rumored nukes and other spectacles. For the situation in the mideast, covered in multiple essays, the writing is powerful, as usual. However, I must admit to some Iraq and general mideast fatigue, and thus couldn't get into the arguments as much as I should have.