22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant writer shares his memoirs
This is kind of a response to the rather rebarbative and fatuous review by R.I. Dacre. Hitch 22 is a very interesting, brilliantly written and seemingly honest memoir of Christopher HItchens, a British intellectual, journalist, debater and of course Author amongst other things. For any rational minded human being concerned about our future his previous book, God is not...
Published on July 21 2010 by Barry James Mccarthy
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Tangential and a bit disappointing
I thoroughly enjoyed "God is not great" and the author's command of the english language is incontestable. However this book wandered excessively and seemed to be more of a manic stream of thoughts and ideas than an organized memoir. Long passages describing political movements and historical events which were only remotely related to the author's own life became a bit...
Published on May 1 2011 by I. Dobson
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant writer shares his memoirs,
This is kind of a response to the rather rebarbative and fatuous review by R.I. Dacre. Hitch 22 is a very interesting, brilliantly written and seemingly honest memoir of Christopher HItchens, a British intellectual, journalist, debater and of course Author amongst other things. For any rational minded human being concerned about our future his previous book, God is not Great ' How religion poisons everything, is essential.
One of the many admirable traits of Mr. Hitchens is that he is, if anything, mostly very noble about those who disagree with him, even if in some cases they can be quite nasty about him in their opposition. As for those for whom he is particularly scathing about, I would opine that they deserve it (Jerry Falwell springs to mind).
I always find his talks, his articles, his books and now this book, an enormously educational experience. I would say that even when you do not agree with his standpoint, his case for his point of view is meticulously laid out, researched and backed up with fact and/or empirical evidence. It's a greatly admirable trait as a writer to be able to be able to pull this off with such élan.
Hitch 22 covers many areas of his life and my only criticism is that I wish that the book could have been longer. The stories vary from making you want to laugh out loud in places to feelings of fury at the horrors that Hitchens has witnessed or wrote about in his career.
He writes about how youthful exuberance may have cast a pall of glamour over situations and people he now sees in a different light, something the previous reviewer certainly failed to grasp or understand, Hitchens explains it best when he quotes John Maynard Keyne's "When the facts change then my opinion changes, and you sir?"
The book is interesting to see an insight into an individual that has been accused of being many things regarding his ideological position, it may not set the record straight for those who need an adequate label but it does dispel the 'neo-con' tag which certainly concerned me prior to getting a vaster knowledge of his written work. HItchens influences are varied and
fascinating as a writer.
There are too many terrific chapters to single out in Hitch 22, I would heartily recommend this engrossing memoir certainly to anyone familiar with his work but for sure to those who are not as a springboard to discover some of his previous works.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Tangential and a bit disappointing,
I thoroughly enjoyed "God is not great" and the author's command of the english language is incontestable. However this book wandered excessively and seemed to be more of a manic stream of thoughts and ideas than an organized memoir. Long passages describing political movements and historical events which were only remotely related to the author's own life became a bit tiresome on several occasions. I was really hoping to learn more about the experiences that lead to Hitchen's atheism and writings in general, but found myself disappointed. Overall, this book was more about certain esoteric aspects of history and politics, and less about Hitchen's himself.
Other reviewers don't share my impressions so perhaps I am off base, but I pushed hard to make it to the end of this book and, unlike other memoirs I have read, could not see myself reading this again. There were a few passages of literary brilliance, but they were buried in a large volume of disorganized prose. I am guessing that the editor was too intimidated to step in to clean this up, but I guess the court of public opinion will determine whether this book has any merit. The fact that there are less than 10 reviews to date may be some indication...
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Uncertain Moral Compass,
I have a deep regard for the forceful way in which Hitchens often makes his arguments, even though I may not always agree with their substance. That is probably due in large respect to the Voltairian streak in me that allows me to tolerate though not always accept the views of my fellow humans. Hitchens's autobiography is an expose of who he is as an intellectual fighting for decency in a world fast succumbing to evil and stupidity. As he shares his story, the reader comes to recognize that this in no petulant knight of the British aristocracy given to sounding off at a legion of imagined ills. Rather, Hitchen is a creature of humble and unclear origins, equipped with a razor sharp mind that includes a gift for words, a strong social conscience and a desire to seek out and understand his destiny. The hurdles he has to overcome are both fascinating and monumental. There is an early childhood dealing with parents who are consumed by their own personal issues and prejudices, followed by a less-than-inspiring stint in a public school, followed by a break-out period at Oxford, to be consumated by a career as a lead journalist for such publications as the New Statesman and Vanity Fair. As a contrarian, Hitchens always seems to position himself on the side of reason and truth when it comes to doing verbal battle with his opponents. As a member of the international Socialist movement, Hitchens plainly does not suffer fools, liars, hypocrites, or demigods gladly. The two parts of the book supporting this observation involve his efforts to support Rushdie during the Ayatollah Khomeini's issuing of a fatwa against him for writing the "The Satanic Verses" and his very visible media campaign in support the US overthrow of Saddam Hussein. In both cases, Hitchens exposed himself to a lot of danger and unpopularity. There are humorous and witty moments on this journey of discovery that takes him into university lecture halls, royal palaces, war zones, prisons, and worthy lives such as Martin Amis, James Fenton, and his brother, Peter. While his prose is heavy at times and his arguments in defence of reasonable causes complex, there is everything charming and engaging about the man. Like his brother, Peter, a Christian writer, Christopher loves the cut and thrust of a good argument, especially against opponents who in his opinion are often dead wrong or inconsistent in their views. Since politics is such a shifty and often dodgy business, Hitchens would likely not be adverse to the idea that it is often best to leave one's options open when facing an uncertain future. Into his sixties, Hitchens will be the first to admit the need for some guiding light in his life though he is not sure what it would look like. Until that happens, he is a man content to be left alone to think and argue his way through whatever remarkable dilemmas come his way. There are some surprises coming your way with this most engrossing and entertaining of books. It will cause you to pause and think about your beliefs.
5.0 out of 5 stars Hitch at his Best.,
This review is from: Hitch-22: A Memoir (Paperback)
Always challenging ideas, beliefs and dogmas, Christopher Hitchens is at his trenchant best with his penetrating insight. To claim this book is thought provoking is understatement indeed.
5.0 out of 5 stars Extraordinary, conversational, erudite,,
This review is from: Hitch-22: Some Confessions and Contradictions (Kindle Edition)
This was another example of Hitchens" remarkable talent. Although I was not able to identify with many of the personalities
of whom he wrote in Britain, his syle, erudition and humour never failed to keep me involved and impressed.
5.0 out of 5 stars Something approaching awe,
While sending out review copies for my book about China, I warned readers they might find its content polemical, controversial, "politically incorrect," or whatever. Two reviewers replied `not to worry,' - they liked oppositionist perspectives and were admirers of Christopher Hitchens. I thought, `Christopher who?' Incredibly, I didn't know who Hitchens was (in 2011, no less), though I knew of his book God is Not Great, which didn't appeal to me because, pompously perhaps, I reckoned I didn't need to read an argument I already supported and a conclusion I had already arrived at. Like many, I familiarized myself with Mr. Hitchens through Youtube and found myself learning heaps about politics and history, and more than I expected to about religion (I had never thought of religion as the original tyranny, for example). And then I chanced upon a copy of his memoir.
Hitch-22 is the best memoir I've read and better than any biography I've read. From a startling account about his mother's suicide to a Socratic declaration of how little he knows (the spur which kept him learning and reflecting on his positions and beliefs), Hitchens's crisp and articulate prose courses through 400 pages, drawing you in, propelling you on, causing you to reflect, and impelling you to learn more about the many subjects, historical events, themes, and memes he scrutinizes and dissects. It also sends you to the dictionary, a healthy exercise, surely.
And it's not a conventional memoir. Apart from the section pertaining to his youth, there is little straightforward or chronological autobiography, and there is limited mention of things there should be, his wife and children for instance. Rather, after describing his upbringing (vignettes of his loving but tormented mother Yvonne, awkward chats with his kindly but conservative father "the Commander," and the bizarre rituals and norms of British public school), the volume morphs into a study of personalities, events, and subjects that shaped Hitchens's life and career as a journalist, a writer, a political commentator, a radical, an iconoclast, and a public intellectual of the first order. So, in the beginning of the book, we get chapters like "Yvonne," "the Commander," and "Fragments from an Education," and in the middle and latter portions we get ones like "Salman," "Mesopotamia from Both Sides," and "Edward Said in Light and Shade (and Saul)." The final chapter, "Decline, Mutation, or Metamorphosis?" does not, as I thought it would, speak to the writer's battle with cancer (indeed, there is no mention of the disease that took his life just two years after this book was published), but instead to the volume's overarching theme, encapsulated within its apposite title.
Hitchens, you see, far from being an absolutist (one of the charges from his reactionary and absolutist detractors), has always been acutely aware of his many contradictions. Ever since he began his rabble-rousing at Oxford (by day; by night he socialized with profs and dons) he has been cognizant of the fact he has kept two sets of books.
Like so many intellectuals, Hitchens was drawn to the Left through Marxism (he was a very active member of the International Socialists), but unlike other big thinkers, he quickly saw the contradictions of Marxist ideology, the shortcomings and failures of Communist states, and the fascist nature of anti-fascists. But Hitchens's outright rejection of the Left was the culmination of a process that occurred over decades. For anyone who has ever wondered or felt confused about just which notch on the political spectrum they occupy, Hitch-22 offers consolation. "Mutato nomine et de te fabula narrator," our Anglo-American narrator writes. "Change only the name and this story is about you."
Reading this book taught me too many things to comprehensively list, and whetted my appetite for more. Apart from Bill Clinton's Mayor Quimbyesque "I did not have sexual relations with that woman," (and Clinton, remember, was impeached for lying under oath) I wasn't fully aware of just what a lying sack of bovine fecal matter he was. I did not fully comprehend the challenge to freedom of expression (and freedom in general) that Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini's fatwa on Salman Rushdie represented. I did not really understand the severity of the situation in Iraq (or precisely how evil and fanatical Saddam Hussein and his sons were). But most of all, and although I've had suspicions for a while and have been tiptoeing back to the centre of the political spectrum, I never fully realized just how utterly brainless, extreme, and absurd the Left really can be. See members of this bleeding-heart's society demonstrating against armed intervention so fascist states and military juntas can continue threatening their neighbours and torturing and murdering their citizenry; see them advocate for freedom of expression while denouncing books and points-of-view their point of view deems "offensive"; watch as people who call themselves liberal criticise all US foreign policy as crass and corrupt imperialism believing nothing the United States government does is motivated - in whole or in part - by morality; note the expression of satisfaction on Leftist faces when the planes hit the towers and thousands die. "Well, hey, America had it coming."
"If Hitchens didn't exist," Ian McEwan said, "we wouldn't be able to invent him." The cynic thinks this is overstatement: the endorsement of a friend in exchange for a mention or reciprocal endorsement. But the cynic who reads Chirstopher Hitchens should have their cynicism replaced by clarity if not perspicacity. They should come to the understanding that McEwan's statement represents the truth.
At the risk of stating the obvious or sounding hagiographic, what a pity Christopher Hitchens is no longer with us. He did what the media so often fails to do. Not only did he use reason and logic to point the way toward what to think, but how to think. He got us to question what we knew or thought we knew. And now that he's gone, who's going to replace him? I reckon someone of Hitchen's intellect and drive comes along once every twenty or thirty years. Or maybe longer. There was Socrates.... There was Orwell.... The feeling I got while reading Hitchens's commentary was something approaching awe, and I felt foolish for not having known who he was. Without question, I will read his massive book, Arguably (reviewed opposite my own book in the San Francisco Book Review). I'm sure the pages will practically turn by themselves. Will I agree with everything Hitchens says? Of course not, and I doubt he would have wanted it any other way.
Troy Parfitt is the author of Why China Will Never Rule the World.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Need more,
I've only recently been introduced to Christopher Hitchens' writing, and I find his prose pure fun to read. His knowledge and wit wash over like a tide - I have found myself re-reading a paragraph because I was so taken with its phrasing and connections that it seemed almost like poetry.
My only complaint is that I wish it was longer.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining,
This review is from: Hitch-22: A Memoir (Paperback)
It is a good gift of God that we, who for one reason or another are hearing what the new atheists are saying, are not subjected to a procession of humorless Richard Dawkins clones. Christopher is, most likely, the only new atheist whose memoirs wouldn't make a most suitable insomnia medicine. I've really come to enjoy Christopher's wit and incisive style of writing, and this book is no exception.
If you are interested in literature, socialism, communism, the new left, foreign policy, 60's counter culture, Cuba, etc., you will find a lot of really interesting things here. I certainly did! Literature is very prominent throughout, though political involvement probably has a more explicit role in the unfolding of this narrative. Though Hitchens has a long history with socialist activism and anti-war sentiment, it is clear that (even though he claims to be still following the same principles) he has changed a lot since then and now is a supporter of the Iraq war, for instance. I find the tension between his past and present positions, and the way he combines a fairly positive view of his past involvements and a negative view of people who are basically continuing the same principles he used to hold, to be fairly puzzling. I guess its part of his charm and he probably intends for some of this sort of irony.
I can't say I can agree or sympathize with him on certain things, but then again, he's a contrarian, everybody is going to find something to disagree with here. I must at this point also say that this book is not for everyone. There are a few quite crude parts and many of the references to events and people of the last 50 or 100 years would simply go over the head of most people. That said, for the right reader, this books has a great deal of appeal. Hitchens has produced a fascinating memoir, worth reading if you really want to know about him. I certainly enjoyed it!
One might expect me, one who worships the God that Hitchens derides, to dismiss or bash his memoirs. Far from it. This intriguing man, whether he confesses it or not, has proven he is living in God's world and his brilliance exudes something of a man who has been endowed with marvelous gifts. I'm thankful to God that Hitchens doesn't write as though he is a bag of bouncing atoms. And I/m also thankful that Hitchens, in his curious statements towards the end indicates he's in a battle with relativism (though I'm still waiting to see what absolutes he has to battle relativism with).
5 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Man for All Seasons,
In our times religious dogma has been discarded and political certainty has been replaced by pragmatism; the US Federal Reserve supported the biggest ever acquisition by the state of private equity; communist China is dominating the world using Capital as its weapon. Christopher Hitchens reflects this multipolar world where enlightened opinion is not acquired from a book but is reached by an almost dialectic process. (No doubt Karl Marx would have been delighted.)
Hitchens presents himself under a number of guises from youthful revolutionary to Jew and American nationalist. He likes to argue as an insider. He fights his various corners with gusto, and often against the mainstream opinion. He is a Trotskyite socialist, a non-Zionist Jew in the row between the Semitic cousins that for various reasons takes precedence over all other national disputes. He is a hawkish American but believes that an assertive military strategy should still be conducted within the laws of the United States.
His tendency to see himself as a member of several distinct sets is projected on to his readers and to the world in general where we all belong in some homogenous group whether liberal, neocon, religious or whatever which makes his polemic a lot easier because it allows him to make sweeping judgments. This is what he has to say about the demonstrations around the world against the Iraq war. `[The demonstrations were] organized by...a declared alliance between Ba'athist sympathizers and Islamic fundamentalists.' He goes on to quote his friend Nick Cohen saying that `a million liberal-minded people marched through London to oppose the overthrow of a fascist regime.' What can you say about this nonsense? Why fascist? Why not Trotskyist? Hitchens' hero was a man who described himself as ruthless in his appalling treatment of opposing White forces in the Russian civil war, gloated when Lenin shut down all the opposition Press and acquired for himself a vast estate complete with servants and retainers after the Bolshevik revolution. Josef Goebbels and Leon Trotsky were peas in a pod.
Hitch (as he likes to be called, possibly Christopher but never Chris) is a journalist and uses the old well-worn techniques of the hack. He mentions meeting the IRA informer Sean O'Callaghan for example (though for some reason doesn't name him) and then goes on to recount (with an added factual error) a story that one might suppose came from the horse's mouth but in fact was published in a book some years ago. O'Callaghan by the way was an agent of the Irish Garda not the British. Hitch has his coterie of admiring friends who all make kind comments about each other. Prominent are the writer of comic books, Martin Amis and the writer of unreadable books Salman Rushdie. These three play jolly games together such as substituting the word `c**t' (this silly euphemism is the only way to get past the censor) for `man' in literary quotations (see the title of this review) much as my fourteen-year old sons used to do - a strange occupation for a man who calls himself an intellectual. While he is pursuing his interest in the use of words he should glance through his Latin and Greek dictionaries to find the meanings of `cohort' and `epicenter'. His knowledge of the non-Anglophone world is generally a little shaky. The eminent newspaper La Repubblica is based in Rome not Portugal, that's why its name is Italian.
This book is popular journalism not serious analysis.
19 of 63 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Well written revealing a nasty person,
This review is from: Hitch-22: A Memoir (Hardcover)
I had read "God is not Great" by this author and have read magazine articles by him and have watched this man on TV doing interviews. He is obviously an academically clever man, although he seems to have little commonsense.
He details his self-righteous distain for anyone who disagrees with him and magically fails to take any responsibility for his own long list of pathetically wrong political judgments.
He drops the names of many very accomplished people with poisonous remarks suggesting his insincere pleasantry to them before trashing them behind their backs. He details what a sychophant he was buttering up various rich people at university especially the champagne socialist rich. He details his grovelling visits to Fidel Castro's Cuba and Hugo Chaves' Venezuela.
This book is a gripping picture of what a British intellectual prig is like.
It is not often a memoir reveals what a thoroughly nasty person has written it.
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Hitch-22: A Memoir by Christopher Hitchens (Paperback - June 7 2011)
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