Love, Poverty, and War: Journeys and Essays Paperback – Nov 10 2004
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Agree or disagree with polemicist Hitchens, there is no denying the clarity of his thinking, the depth of his reading, the thoroughness of his inquiries, the independence of his opinions, and the brio of his superbly fashioned prose. An expat Brit who has written for the Nation and Vanity Fair and authored a number of stinging books, Hitchens cannot abide fuzzy logic, cant, hypocrisy, or lies and has enraged the Right and the Left with his vehement criticism of religion and his thrashing of Michael Moore and Bill Clinton. Hitchens writes astutely about post-9/11 patriotism and war and about why history is no longer taught in American schools. But this daring political analyst is also passionate about literature and offers discerning interpretations of Proust, Huxley, and Bellow. And he even shares glimpses of his less toxic self, reading Kipling to Borges in Buenos Aires, and driving across southern Illinois in a red Corvette looking for sites commemorating Abraham Lincoln. Hitchens' compassion is as sure as his ire is hot, making for a bracing and provocative collection. Donna Seaman
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"'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 Paperback edition.See all Product Description
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.