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Hitch-22: A Memoir Paperback – June 3, 2011
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"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover," illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Learn more
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The book’s initial pages reflect a powerful introspection regarding death, dying, and the glee of mortality -- even before his diagnosis. It’s clear that Hitchens simply wanted to pack as many years into whatever life he had. With that goal in mind, it seems he succeeded.
His prose offers a glimpse into a genius writer. I’m not sure I’ve ever read more eloquent words. Hitchens’ memoir shows a grace for others, contempt for banality, and a self-effacing eloquence. At times, the memoir reads like a collection of markers, keystones, and memorials. His name dropping is sort of frustrating, as a young reader/writer -- unexposed to this culture. But it also provides inspiration for further reading. The network and milieu that Hitchens built was legendary; it included everyone from Ian McEwan to Salman Rushdie to Martin Amis.
Christopher appears to acknowledge much of his upbringing, and the inherent class that Yvonne (his mother) insisted on the family. From his preference for a full name “Christopher” -- not “Chris” -- to the formality in speech, class was a resounding focal point in his development.
There were two points of contention for me. First, Hitchens barely mentioned his intimate relationships or children. It’s unclear to me how such a great writer could unconsciously pass this up. This leads me to believe the Hitchens consciously avoided the topic of his descendants and relationships. Why? One can only imagine now. Second, Hitchens embraced America as the "land of opportunity" and emigrated from the United Kingdom. While he talks about the issues of immigration to America, with a nod to those less fortunate, I found that he was rather absent on the acknowledgement of powerful economic inequalities and racial tensions that are very present in the U.S.
Those tidbits aside, this is a masterpiece. I miss Hitchens’ writing dearly, and will certainly return to this memoir at a later date.
Hitch begins this memoir with a chapter focusing on his mother. I think an in-depth study of the relationship between Hitch and his mother would help us to know and understand him on a much more intimate level, she having been at the center of his life. Interestingly, although there is a chapter wherein Hitch reflects on his father, the "Commander," his brother Peter is only briefly mentioned a couple of times, likewise Hitch's children; Carol Blue, second wife (and now surviving widow) is granted only three or four sentences of recognition throughout and then not to her own personal merit. Yet, Hitch finds space to devote entire chapters to friends Martin and Salman.