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Hitch-22: A Memoir (Audio CD) Audio CD – 2011
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Right from the start, Hitch pulls no punches. He decorates his epigraph with a stylized rose and the word "Caute" (Latin for "caution" or "beware"), both being a nod to Spinoza, one of Hitch's heroes. As Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu (q.v.) has pointed out, Spinoza wore a signet ring with the rose-and-word, with his initials, and signed his letters with the design. Beware, Spinoza warns, the rose also has thorns. Hitch joins in, declaring his memoir to be the same, and Hitch's first sentence starts, if not with a double barrel, at least with a paired warning shot above one's head. He second sentence follows with as lovely a sentiment as anyone might want. A rose and thorns.
From his undergraduate days at Oxford, Hitchens was always front and center, confronting, speaking, lecturing, writing. His fearless debates were with anyone who dared, whether clerical, academic, or political, and foreign or local. In "Hitch-22" he has chapters on his parents and his well-known friends, like James Fenton, Martin Amis, and Salman Rushdie. Included more lately, himself counted among the Four Horsemen, were Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, and Sam Harris, whose books on atheism are among my reviews.
Hitchens fought totalitarianism in all its forms, including the religious as well as the national. Against that were science and reason, which he believed constitute "the great imperative of our time." Since science and reason are open-ended, waiting for discoveries and explanations to further our knowledge of everything, he realized that he and others of shared beliefs were always at the disadvantage against the metaphysical and eternal certitudes of opponents.
Hitch had some thorns of his own, which likely contributed to his early demise. He smoked incessantly and drank continuously. On the international correspondent scene, he could smile, share a light with a stranger, and move right along into confidences about the protest or other action facing them.
One might say that his profanities did not always appear necessary. And though he deeply and sincerely loved the English language, he could use it to turn something complex into something even more complex and obscure. And he liked to intone some smatterings of French, although always precisely "en pointe" (if I may twist a term). His memoir, however, is crystal clear.
His drinking was life-long, habitual, and from what I can tell, essential -- for calm, for focus, for sharpness, for fluency.
His final chapter is exquisite. Regardless the thorns, he is loved and missed.
Most recent customer reviews
Great to now. more about his ideas, and about his life.