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Unacknowledged Legislation: Writers in the Public Sphere Paperback – January 17, 2003
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“Hitchens’s writing is tough, heartfelt, coruscating, funny ? and imbued with the understanding that the task in hand is an important one.”—The Times
“I have been asked whether I wish to nominate a successor, an inheritor, a dauphin or delfino. I have decided to name Christopher Hitchens.”—Gore Vidal
“A Tom Paine for our troubled times ... He picks up the sword and mantle of E. P. Thompson, and carries them off with swashbuckling impertinence, valiant for truth, last in the line of English gentlemen-intellectuals.”—Independent
“Unacknowledged Legislation is a big, handsome book containing some of the best, most polished and wittiest writing you are likely to encounter this or any other year ... Gore Vidal should be so lucky to have this boy for an heir.”—John Banville, Irish Times
“Christopher Hitchens is indeed hit-man to the intelligentsia. If there is an inflated ego to puncture, he has the red-hot needle to do it.”—Sunday Times
“Lionel Trilling once observed in his diaries that, to his genuine surprise, he was no longer simply a critic of literature but had become a fact of literature himself ... Christopher Hitchens, political and literary journalist extraordinaire, should now be considered a fact of political and cultural reality. His astounding capacity for work has produced a body of work; his vastly ranging, deeply driven devastations and illuminations make up a reliable outlook on the world.”—Lee Siegel, Los Angeles Times
“He is a loose cannon, a sharp wit, an ironist, a polemicist of exceptional talent, and editor’s dream.”—Times Literary Supplement
About the Author
Christopher Hitchens is a contributing editor to Vanity Fair and the author of the best-selling God Is Not Great. His books published by Verso include The Trial of Henry Kissinger, No One Left to Lie To, The Missionary Position, Unacknowledged Legislation, The Parthenon Marbles, Hostage to History, and more.
Top customer reviews
All of these essays have previously appeared in publications such as Vanity Fair. If you've read a good chunk of Hitchens' published articles, you'll probably have already read the most worthwhile essays featured here.
There isn't much middle ground with this book, the essays tend to be either sheer genius or tediously uninteresting. If you decide to read this book, I suggest being prepared to do some skipping.
The selection process could have been tighter, the book would not have suffered at all from having the lesser quarter of the essays cut right out.
A good chunk of the essays are only tangentially related to the implied subject of the book. A few of them cover minutae so tedious that even the most pedantic trivia-monger might have to come up for air.
It should be said, though, that the brilliant moments are VERY brilliant. And the best essays of this book are true gems!
In this collection, we get a wonderful set of essays about Oscar Wilde and his contribution to the art of play-writing and support for socialism followed by his horrendous victimization as a homosexual. There's a passage from this section that I cannot resist quoting, "Wilde was able to be mordant and witty because he was, deep down and on the surface, un home serieux. May his memory stay carnation-green. May he ever encourage us to think that the bores and the bullies and the literal minds need not always win. May he induce us to rise from our semi-recumbent postures" (pg. 9).
Hitchens proceeds to run through nearly all of the crucial English writers of our era. He of course writes about Orwell, which I thought was a mute point after his Why Orwell Matters, but hey, the guy loves his Orwell. He discusses the anti-Semitism and fascism in T.S. Eliot, the racism of Rudyard Kipling, the historical depth of Gore Vidal, the heavy-handedness of Norman Podhoretz, Allan Bloom's influence on Saul Bellow, and of course, his solidarity with Salman Rushdie upon the declaration of the fatwa among Islamic Jihads, an action for which Hitchens rightfully boasts.
Hitchens also provides critical summaries of the arch-sensationalist Tom Wolf, and hack, Tom Clancy. He offers simply biting criticism of the former, and much needed as Wolf as enjoyed ludicrous financial and critical success for his quasi-journalism over the last few decades. Hitch examines Wolf's reliance on the cliché, and the cultural and racial stereotype for the sake of provocation. Clancy, while less deserving of a critical review than Wolf, is quickly wrapped up in a body bag and tossed overboard by Hitch.
Unacknowledged Legislation may be Hitchens' finest blend of the political and the literary, and it may be the best example of his prolific gifts. Don't miss this volume.