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"Anyone who occasionally opens one of our more serious periodicals has learned that the byline of Christopher Hitchens is an opportunity to be delighted or maddened-possibly both-but in any case not to be missed....His range is extraordinary, both in breadth and altitude. He is as self-confident on the politics of Lebanon as on the ontology of the Harry Potter books....I still find Hitchens one of the most stimulating thinkers and entertaining we have, even when-perhaps especially when-he provokes."―Bill Keller, New York Times Book Review
"The essays in 'Arguably' remind us of other dimensions to this singular writer and thinker that are sometimes overshadowed by the range of his political commentary. Though there are plenty of essays on politics to be found here, the book also treats us to other arrows in Hitchens' proverbial quiver, including his bracing, exhilarating approach to important literary figures...Its value is clear and needs no justification. And since his diagnosis of esophageal cancer last year, opportunities to hear him, understandably, have been fewer. Which is another thing 'Arguably' inadvertently addresses - for in reading this collection of his thoughts, immersing yourself in the particular turns of phrase and associations of Hitchens' wit, you suddenly realize something else: You're hearing his voice again."―Nick Owchar, Los Angeles Times
"Christopher Hitchens's selected essays are Arguably (Twelve) his finest to date."―Vanity Fair
"One reads him [Hitchens] despite his reputation as someone who wants to drink, argue, and tear the ornaments off the tree, because he is, first and last, a writer, an always exciting, often exacting, furious polemicist. This fact, the most salient thing about him, often gets neglected in the public jousting. Arguably, Hitchens's new collection, forcefully proves this point. Consisting of three kinds of writing - literary journalism, political commentary, and cultural complaint - Arguably offers a panoramic if somewhat jaundiced view of the last decade or so of cultural and political history."―The Boston Globe
"Opinions are to Christopher Hitchens what oil is to Saudi Arabia. This collection, featuring his liveliest, funniest and most infamous essays....There is a time for the balanced, even-handed and sober approach - but why bother with any of that when you could be reading someone as provocative and impish as Hitchens?"―The New York Post
About the Author
Christopher Hitchens, a contributing editor to Vanity Fair, Slate, and The Atlantic, is the author of numerous books, including works on Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, and George Orwell. He is also the author of the international bestsellers god Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything and Hitch-22: A Memoir.
Christopher Hitchens (1949-2011) was the author of Letters to a Young Contrarian, and the bestseller No One Left to Lie To: The Values of the Worst Family. A regular contributor to Vanity Fair, The Atlantic Monthly and Slate, Hitchens also wrote for The Weekly Standard, The National Review, and The Independent, and appeared on The Daily Show, Charlie Rose, The Chris Matthew's Show, Real Time with Bill Maher, and C-Span's Washington Journal. He was named one of the world's "Top 100 Public Intellectuals" by Foreign Policy and Britain's Prospect.
I should begin by admitting that I just received this book today; however, as a longtime fan of Hitch's work, I've already read the majority of these essays, so I feel confident in writing this review now.
I pre-ordered this book months ago, but until today I didn't know which of his essays would be included. I'm absolutely thrilled by the final product. To begin with, it's massive - at nearly 800 pages, it's larger than "god Is Not Great" and "Hitch-22" combined. The essays are sorted into 6 sections, and I'll cover each of them in some detail below.
"All American" focuses on the history, policies, and distinguished figures of the United States. It appears to be sorted chronologically; beginning with essays on Jefferson and Franklin, continuing through subjects like John Brown and Lincoln, JFK, John Updike, and Gore Vidal, and then closing with essays on modern issues like capital punishment and atheism in the modern military.
"Eclectic Affinities" includes Hitchens' best essays on notable literary figures. There are about 30 essays here, covering everything from Karl Marx, to Graham Greene, to George Orwell, to JK Rowling.
"Amusements, Annoyances, and Disappointments" is relatively short, with only 8 essays. However, these are some of Hitch's most famous and controversial personal remarks, including the infamous "Why Women Aren't Funny" and his charming "New Commandments".
"Offshore Accounts" primarily deals with modern political conflicts. It includes his experience with waterboarding, his admiration for Kurdistan, and his encyclopedic knowledge of current politics. This is probably the most notable section of the book, and also one of the longest.Read more ›
Christopher Hitchens has been told he hasn't much time to live, so with whatever time he does have left he gives us Arguably, a book of essays, for what may be his final effort. And if by chance you haven't ever read Mr. Hitchens and would like one book to stand as a proxy for his life's work, let it be this. Arguably is a compendium of short brilliant gems, intended for either the lay or the professional reader, that comes together to form a thesis about the variations on human activity put together by a literary descendent of Emerson, H.L. Mencken and Paul Goodman. No human activity on any subject is too small to warrant his attention.
Hitchens has the ability to present the past in such a way as to leave the general reader exclaiming "shouldn't this be the way we handle the present?" For example, in the essay Jefferson Versus The Muslim Pirates, there is not a single mention of 21st century pirates operating out of motherships, and yet every reader will make a connection between the Barbary pirates and our current circumstances. His ability to explain the past happens just outside the mothership of current events and he leaves it to the reader to connect the two.
Other essays reduce to a simplicity that have the reader wondering, in the case of a nation trafficking, Hitchens believes, in human bondage like North Korea, why immediate international pressure of the kind that ended apartheid in South Africa isn't brought to bear to end the regime of Kim Jung-il. On the other hand, if you thought ...Read more ›
An excellent compilation/anthology of recent essays published by that incomparable prose stylist Mr.Christopher Hitchens in "The Atlantic Monthly","Slate", "Vanity Fair", & a few other outlets. These short pieces range from political, cultural, moral, or just thought-provoking topics. This is a big, hefty volume, good for hours & hours of reading pleasure -- and I do mean 'pleasure'; Mr. Hitchens' literary emissions are delicious, sensuous. Nearly anybody can 'write well' (if only enough effort is expended); to few does Fate bestow such graceful expression.
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I finished reading Hitchens book a couple of weeks ago and this evening I am sad to learn that he finally lost his battle with cancer. The thing that stood out the most for me in reading these essays is the astonishing ability to recall past events and apply them in any current argument. It wouldn't really be possible to do this by pure research; he had to have the facts already to hand, in his mind. Whilst I didn't necessarily agree with all of his positions in this collection of essays, he did make good points and argued them convincingly, even causing me at times to re-evaluate my own opinions on some matters. He would have made a great debater and for all I know perhaps he did get into debates or at the very least active panel discussions with opposing viewpoints. I have seen him in action on Bill Maher's show and that's the main reason I decided to read Arguably. On the basis of these essays I shall read some of his other work because aside from mostly agreeing with his viewpoints I also enjoyed his writing style.
If you want a book that will make you stop and think, yet in a format that allows for bite sized chunks to be nibbled on at your own leisure, you could do worse than give Arguably a look. It's a physically hefty book and probably the ideal one to read on a Kindle.