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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Some of the finest writing I've ever come across
This was my first exposure to Hitchens' writing and I was blown away. I have never come across another author whose skill with the English language left me shaking my head in wonder. His knowledge of literature is astounding and the ability to pull apart books and essays in reviews and then combine the contents with information from various sources and his personal...
Published on Nov. 8 2011 by Kris Head

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Throw out the anti-Muslim rants, but keep the personal putdowns
When I finished reading Christopher Hitchens’s memoir, Hitch-22, I disliked it so much that I decided not to review it. Why waste my time on a book I didn’t like?

This time, Hitchens has issued a book only half of which I dislike very much, and I propose here to dismiss that half as quickly as I can and move on to the half that I like...
Published 4 days ago by ronbc


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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Some of the finest writing I've ever come across, Nov. 8 2011
By 
Kris Head - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Arguably: Essays by Christopher Hitchens (Hardcover)
This was my first exposure to Hitchens' writing and I was blown away. I have never come across another author whose skill with the English language left me shaking my head in wonder. His knowledge of literature is astounding and the ability to pull apart books and essays in reviews and then combine the contents with information from various sources and his personal experience is breathtaking.

Some of the content is heavy, reviewing authors from the 1920s and 30s while other essays focus on contemporary issues. You will likely need ready access to a dictionary and wikipedia to thoroughly understand some of the topics but several essays inspired me to go back and pick up some of the classic books of literature.

Some people may argue with his conclusions or disagree with his political views but I don't think anyone could argue with the incredible wordsmith power.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Inarguably Good, Sept. 25 2012
By 
Dave_42 "Dave_42" (Australia) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Arguably (Paperback)
Christopher Hitchens had a mind which is sorely missed. Whether you agreed with what he was saying, or were on the other side of the issue, one had to respect and respond to what Hitchens had to say on the subject. "Arguably" is a collection of his essays (107 in all) put into six sections of the book, and which cover a wide variety of subjects. There are certainly a few here which are not going to be considered controversial, but the vast majority are Hitchens as he usually was, strongly opinionated on controversial subjects, and always with a significant stack of facts to back his positions; positions which he was not afraid to voice in the bluntest terms. In other words, this is Hitchens at his best (when you agree with him), and at his most difficult (when you don't).

This collection was published originally in September of 2011, with Hitchens writing a brief introduction in late June as he was suffering from oesophageal cancer from which he would pass away six months later at the all too young age of 62. The essays had been published over the course of years in a variety of publications. The subjects dealt with cover a wide range, from religion and politics, to why women aren't funny, and everything in between. The material ranges from columns, to book reviews, to book introductions.

Hitchens was one of the few members of the media who had actually visited the "axis of evil", along with many other places, and this most certainly contributed to his insights on many subjects. Hitchens was not the least bit tentative to express his opinion, but unlike other talking-heads, Hitchens was able to do it and still be credible on a subject. Though certainly liberal on a majority of subjects, Hitchens had no problem blasting Kissinger, then turning around and backing President George W. Bush in the "War on Terror", only to then proceed to ignore the administration's position on water-boarding and calling it what he considered it, "torture". The result is that the reader can trust that the opinion they are reading is sincere, and not simply a position taken to support an ideological ally.

I ended my first paragraph by saying that Hitchens was at his best when you agree with him, but the fact is that if you are open to views different than yours, then often Hitchens is at his best when you disagree with him. He certainly had the ability to infuriate and madden listeners and readers, but he also had the ability to make people understand a different point of view, even when he fails to convince them that he is correct. Christopher Hitchens is a voice which is missed.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Throw out the anti-Muslim rants, but keep the personal putdowns, Nov. 23 2014
By 
ronbc (Vancouver, BC) - See all my reviews
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When I finished reading Christopher Hitchens’s memoir, Hitch-22, I disliked it so much that I decided not to review it. Why waste my time on a book I didn’t like?

This time, Hitchens has issued a book only half of which I dislike very much, and I propose here to dismiss that half as quickly as I can and move on to the half that I like.

That’s the thing with Christopher Hitchens. He refuses to be just one thing or the other. As soon as he’s finished delighting you with a singular take on a familiar novel, he hits you over the head with another shot of his rampant and incessant Islamophobia.

If Hitch-22 suffered from an eventually insufferable round of meetings and dinners and binges with people who are now famous and important, not to mention a grindingly detailed exposition of the minute differences between this and that small group of university radicals, Arguably labours under its author’s tiresome repetition of the sins of Islam — and the greater sins of Westerners who kowtow and cater and defer and excuse the excesses and injustices that Hitchens sees so clearly.

If he’s not ranting about the evils of the veil, much less the burka, he’s reminding us that “perhaps 1.5 million Europeans and Americans were enslaved in Islamic North Africa between 1530 and 1780,” and that instead of letting our racial guilt over black slavery blur our vision now, we should get over it and head to the neocon dark side.

Indeed, one of the most striking things about Hitchens’s latest book is just how far he has let the authoritarian and judgemental parts of his former Marxism inform his more recent politics.

If this political and moral lapsing were all that Arguably contained, it would hardly be worth reading, and certainly not worth reviewing here. The good news is that there’s some very good writing, and some very entertaining analysis, in this volume.

Many of the articles are book reviews. Like all really good reviewers, Hitchens uses the book at hand as a starting point for a related, often larger point. Anyone, as I well know, can write a more or less competent review that recasts the contents of a book in compressed form. The best reviewers treat the book as a starting point, not as a closed subject.

The best essays in Arguably are sparked by literary and historical biographies, but he’s not above the occasional foray into current popular fiction, such as the Harry Potter series and the Millennium trilogy.

So, when am I going to get to the good stuff, the essays that I like unreservedly? Now seems like a good time, if anyone is still here.

Hitchens’s reach is wide, and the subjects of his essays range from John Brown to Mark Twain, from Upton Sinclair to Prince Charles. Can you guess which one of the four he doesn’t admire?

It’s certainly not John Brown of whom Hitchens disapproves. Hitchens writes that Brown “far from being a crazed fanatic, was a serious legatee of the English and American Revolutions who anticipated the Emancipation Proclamation and all that has ensued from it.” Hitchens makes his admiration even clearer:

Our world might be a good deal worse than it is had not numberless African-Americans, from that day to this, taken John Brown as proof that fraternity and equality, as well as liberty, were feasible things and could be exemplified by real people.

Mark Twain was also, of course, an advocate of social reform and an opponent of slavery. But his greatness lies in his ability to make most of his many sorts of social comment and moral criticism witty and, not the same thing, entertaining. Hitchens shares this assessment of Twain, writing approvingly of a man who “impaled the founder of Christian Science on a stake of contemptuous ridicule and who dismissed the Book of Mormon as ‘chloroform in print.’” And, “until his appearance, even writers as adventurous as Hawthorne and Melville would have been gratified to receive the praise of a comparison to Walter Scott.”

Unfortunately for Hitchens, the Twain biography he’s reviewing misses too much of the good stuff. In a criticism that could be applied just as well to Twain’s
Autobiography, Hitchens writes that Twain “wrote altogether too many words, and now his biographer has cited too many of the mediocre ones and not enough of the brilliant ones.” Hitchens’s final judgment is short and telling: “It is altogether wrong that a book about Mark Twain should be boring.”

Mark Twain remains a frequently-read and relevant bastion of the American canon, but time has not been as kind to another great reformer, Upton Sinclair. Despite this neglect, Hitchens calls Sinclair’s The Jungle ”the most successful attempt ever made to fictionalize the central passages of Marx’s Das Kapital.“

Some of the best parts of the best essays in Arguably are the too few places where Hitchens presents a detailed exposition of key passages of the books about which he’s writing. His presentation of the plight of the worker in The Jungle is one of these insightful and enlightening passages:

The odds are so arranged that no honest person can ever hope to win. The landlord, the saloonkeeper, the foreman, the shopkeeper, the ward heeler, all are leagued against the gullible toiler in such a way that he can scarcely find time to imagine what his actual employer or boss might be getting away with. To this accumulation of adversity Jurgis invariably responds with the mantra “I will work harder.” This is exactly what the innocent cart horse Boxer later says as he wears out his muscles on the cynical futilities of Animal Farm.

Hitchens emphasizes Sinclair’s realism, noting with others that Sinclair’s description of the conditions in the meat packing houses was so graphic that, rather than sparking reform in the ways that the workers were treated, his words spurred an investigation into the handling of raw meat. Forget the workers — make sure that my beef is safe to eat!

But Hitchens’s praise of Sinclair is not unlimited. He notes of Sinclair that “like Karl Marx in The Communist Manifesto, he couldn’t help being exceedingly impressed by the dynamic, innovative, and productive energy of capitalism.”

After many stops — essays on JFK’s masking of his Addison’s disease, capital punishment in Texas, and the animal rights movement among them — Hitchens arrives at one of his favourite targets: Charles, Prince of Wales.

Hitchens recognizes the unwelcome but unavoidable demise of the Queen and considers the ascendancy of Charles to the English throne:

In strict constitutional terms, this ought not to matter much. The English monarchy, as has been said, reigns but does not rule. From the aesthetic point of view it will matter a bit, because the prospect of a morose bat-eared and chinless man, prematurely aged, and with the most abysmal taste in royal consorts, is a distinctly lowering one.

The immediate reason for taking on Charles in print once again was a speech Charles gave to a British Muslim organization. That alone would put Charles on the outs with Hitchens, but the speech’s content — a call for a reduction in the influence of science in the world, and a return to faith in “universal values” — sent him round the bend.

OK, part of this is down to Hitchens’s hatred of anything spiritual, relativistic, or Muslim (especially Muslim). But Charles is an easy target, and Hitchens can be entertainingly scathing.

It doesn’t take a dirty rotten Muslim-loving sod to find fault with Charles’s call for a return to all the mushy consolations of the mythological and otherwise spiritual. Hitchens wades right in, saying of Charles that “this latest departure promotes him from an advocate of harmless nonsense to positively sinister nonsense.”

Hitchens’s arch rationalism comes directly to the fore in his assessment of Charles’s aim:

"So this is where all the vapid talk about the “soul” of the universe is actually headed. Once the hard-won principles of reason and science have been discredited, the world will not pass into the hands of credulous herbivores who keep crystals by their sides and swoon over the poems of Khalil Gibran. The “vacuum” will be invaded instead by determined fundamentalists of every stripe who already know the truth by means of revelation and who actually seek real and serious power in the here and now."

It’s too bad that Hitchens can’t keep his mind on traditional and amusing character assassination. If he could have done so, Arguably would have been thoroughly entertaining.

Unfortunately, far too often we get passages like this one, near the end of the book:

"The fascistic subculture that has taken root in Britain and that lives by violence and hatred is composed of two main elements. One is a refugee phenomenon, made up of shady exiles from the Middle East and Asia who are exploiting London’s traditional hospitality, and one is the projection of an immigrant group that has its origins in a particularly backward and reactionary part of Pakistan."

That’s a sentiment that Niall Ferguson could love, and it’s the side of Christopher Hitchens that I wish he’d kept to himself.

After all, aren’t cultured Brits taught at an early age to smother and internalize their crasser anti-social tendencies?
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Arguably, Jan. 15 2012
By 
Peter Vincent - See all my reviews
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Don't even contemplate buying this book as an audio text unless you are a member of the MENSA club. Hitchens' command of the english language and his skill at cobbling together sentences requires your full attention. Not to be listened to in rush hour traffic or on a long trip. You will find your eyes glazing over as you try to keep up with Mr Hitchens logic. Buy the e-edition if you don't relish the thought of lugging around an 800+ page book in your carry-on. The essays are brilliant. The shortcomings are ours alone.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, Nov. 29 2011
By 
This review is from: Arguably: Essays by Christopher Hitchens (Hardcover)
Sadly, this will probably Christopher's last "prehumous" publication. His wit, tenacity and brutal honesty are all evident in these essays and it's a work he can and should be proud of.

If you have read Hitchens before you owe it to yourself to get this.
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5.0 out of 5 stars One superb book, June 10 2014
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This review is from: Arguably: Essays by Christopher Hitchens (Hardcover)
Wonderful insights into history and literature. Cannot put it down. We have lost an amazing mind, and I am glad he left us such a fine legacy.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Arguably Good, June 14 2012
By 
Mark Nenadov "arm-chair reader" (Essex, Ontario Canada) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Arguably: Essays by Christopher Hitchens (Hardcover)
A massive collection of essays on literature, foreign policy, and other topics. It's not at all dull, but you will find it a massive plow unless you have a great deal of stamina.

Being quite spunky and animated prose, as one has come to expect from Hitchens, you'll never end up thinking 'What does Hitchens really think?' There's a little something something in here to ruffle everyones feathers.

Every time I read something by Hitchens, I'm impressed but what a great author he was and how similar his prose is to Orwell and how I can't think of more than one or two people who touch him nowadays when it comes to the turning of words. Going through this book at this time was a sobering experience, seeing how Hitchens has gone on to meet his Maker. The world has lost a great essayist.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A fan of Hitchens, April 19 2012
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This review is from: Arguably: Essays by Christopher Hitchens (Hardcover)
It is an okay read, but to be honest it is not one of his finest works. I thought the essays would be more relevant to today's issues but most articles are book reviews. Not really interesting work.
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4 of 35 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Arguably - Essays by Christopher Hitchens, Oct. 30 2011
I haven't actually listened to this yet but when I opened this box of 24 CDs I found no index to tell me what is on which CD. Each CD has a plain black cover with no writing on it and blank space on the CD itself for description of what's on the CD - so I have ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA WHAT ESSAY IS ON WHICH OF 24 CDs WITHOUT PLAYING EACH ONE AND MAKING MY OWN LIST OF WHAT'S ON THEM, and with nothing stamped on the CDs themselves, who knows what is on each of the 24. Ridiculous and bad marketing. The outside box containing the 24 CDs refers to a few subjects in a general way. No doubt the producers of this product think the element of surprise is all ..... well, I've got news for them, it's extremely irritating after spending so much money and looking forward to the audio of one of my favourite authors.
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Arguably: Essays by Christopher Hitchens
Arguably: Essays by Christopher Hitchens by Christopher Hitchens (Hardcover - Sept. 6 2011)
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