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Hitch-22: A Memoir Paperback – June 3, 2011
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"As contemptuous, digressive, righteous, and riotously funny as the rest of the author's incessant output, this memoir is an effective coming-of-age story, regardless of what one may think of the resulting adult . . . Hitchens paints a credible and even affecting self-portrait."―The New Yorker
"In this frank, often wickedly funny account, Hitchens traces his evolution as a fiercely independent thinker and enemy of people who are convinced of their absolute certainty ... Revealing and riveting."―Kirkus Review
"The most erudite and astute political and social commentator of this era has written a memoir that not only give the reader a view of the man behind the words but also a perceptive look at society over the past decades. Hitchens fascinates with the life he has lived and observed and, as always, relates his story with precision and consideration."―Bill Cusamano, Nicola's Books
"Hitch is as Hitch does, and he's not apologizing to anyone."―Drew Toal, Time Out New York
"[H]e has so many great quotes and quotables . . . that one cannot read his latest masterpiece for having to stop, find a pencil and page stickers in order to underline and signify his many remarks, each greater than the other."―Liz Smith, wowOwow.com
"Few writers can match his cerebral pyrotechnics. Fewer still can emulate his punch as an intellectual character assassin. It is hard not to admire the sheer virtuosity of his prose ... With Hitchens one simply goes along for the ride. The destination hardly matters."―Ed Luce, The Financial Times
"[D]electable, sassy fun . . . this book is intelligent and humane . . . Hitch-22 reminded me why I love the author of The Missionary Position, his fervent slapping of Mother Teresa, and his book about the war crimes of Henry Kissinger. Hitchens takes no prisoners, not even himself."―Mark Oppenheimer, The New Haven Review
"After reading Hitch-22, the only thing you can be sure of is that this flawed knight will not breathe contentedly unless he has a dragon to slay."―Ariel Gonzales, The Miami Herald
"... a fat and juicy memoir of a fat and juicy life."―Diana McLellan, The Washington Post
" ... a complex portrait of a public intellectual."―Alexandra Alter, The Wall Street Journal
About the Author
Christopher Hitchens is a contributing editor to Vanity Fair and a visiting professor of liberal studies at the New School. He is the author of numerous books, including works on Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, George Orwell, Mother Teresa, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Henry Kissinger, and his #1 New York Times bestseller and National Book Award nominee, God Is Not Great.
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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.