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And Yet...: Essays Hardcover – November 24, 2015
This month's Book With Buzz: "The Lying Game" by Ruth Ware
From the instant New York Times bestselling author of blockbuster thrillers "In a Dark, Dark Wood" and "The Woman in Cabin 10" comes Ruth Ware’s chilling new novel, "The Lying Game." See more
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An Amazon Best Book of December 2015: What a tragic irony that in this era of surreptitious videotaping, political posturing and runaway media, we no longer have the brilliant Christopher Hitchens to decipher it all for us. The award-winning essayist (many say “polemicist” and mean it as a compliment) died of esophageal cancer in 2011. But if we can only speculate as to what Hitchens would have to say about the world in 2015, we at least can read these collected essays, some already published, some not – at his death, it is said that he left nearly 250,000 words of as-yet-unpublished essays. Whether old or new to us, the pieces collected here are funny and wry and searingly intelligent; not a single nuance or nanosecond of phoniness slips by “Hitch.” Whether analyzing the romanticization of revered Cuban revolutionary leader Che Guevara, or remarking that the conservative pundit Pat Buchanan is a “faux bonhomme,” Hitchens quietly astounds us still with his characteristic combination of erudition and commonality. Reading Hitchens was always a wry, witty pleasure; now that he’s gone, it’s more like having a wonderful dream, a nocturnal visit from a beloved, brilliant friend. --Sara Nelson
Praise for And Yet...
"Christopher Hitchens is sorely missed, And Yet…, reading his new book – a bounty of famous scalps, thunder-blasted targets, and a few love letters – is such a powerful reminder of the late V.F. contributing editor and notorious provocateur in chief’s erudite and scathing assessments of American culture,it’s almost as if he’s here."
— Vanity Fair
“Just as with rock bands that seem to have done more farewell tours than pre-farewell performances, there's probably more in the vault—but in this case, that's a very good thing indeed.”
— Kirkus Reviews
“A very good new collection… The best reason to read AND YET… may be its inclusion of a three-part essay, ‘On the Limits of Self-Improvement,’ that Mr. Hitchens wrote for Vanity Fair about trying to get himself in shape. It is as hilarious as it is wise, and I predict it will be published before long as its own pocket-size book… The moment when Mr. Hitchens undergoes the male version of a Brazilian bikini wax… has yet to be recognized, but surely will be, as among the funniest passages in this country’s literature.”
—The New York Times
“In this volume one is given a model of how to be a thoughtful journalist. Today, four years after his death, Hitchens is correctly seen as a writer who was unafraid to swim against the tide, even to the point of being politically incorrect… All in all, another great book of essays from a writer who we wish were still alive to produce more copy.”
Praise for Christopher Hitchens:
"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
“Arguably the best—and certainly the most prolific—essayist Britain has produced since George Orwell.”
—Andrew Anthony, The Observer
“A rare blend of elements: the buoyant and the serious, the streetwise and the learned, the crude joking of the pub and ‘the cut glass Oxford tones’ of civilized debate.”
—David Castronovo, Commonweal
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Hitchens was an iconoclast who happily toppled all idols, from Charles Dickens to Hillary Clinton to James Bond to V. S. Naipaul to Christmas. But not always without heart. He can, for example, cite Dickens’ limitations --- his contemptuous anti-Americanism, his annoying gift-card-ization of Christmas --- while lauding his little-known largesse: Dickens revamped Fagin in OLIVER TWIST and later created a kind, helpful Jewish moneylender (Mr. Riah in OUR MUTUAL FRIEND) after receiving an anguished plea from a Jewish lady concerned with the biased characterization of her people.
In 2009, Hitchens damned the newly elected President Obama with faint praise, calling him a “cool cat” who “treads so lightly…that all impressions he has so far made are alarmingly slight.” He gleefully reported Hillary Clinton’s meeting with Sir Edmund Hillary, at which she recklessly declared that “her mother had actually named her for this famous and intrepid explorer." Hitchens was pleased to retort that Clinton was born in 1947, six years before Sir Edmund gained worldwide acclaim for his ascent of Mt. Everest.
Hitchens denigrates the American mania for Christmas with a barrage of verbal potshots --- “obligatory generosity,” “deadening routine,” “angels and menorahs on the White House lawn” --- reminding us that our Puritans banned such blasphemies as burning logs and lit-up trees. He handles the subject with his usual articulate waggishness, making us smile a bit at ourselves. His detractors might point to the root cause of his Scrooge-like disdain for our favorite holiday: Hitchens was what he liked to call an “antitheist,” firmly convinced that the big three religions were responsible for most of the ills of the world.
But Hitchens is quite able to mock himself, as here in a three-part essay, “On the Limits of Self-Improvement,” describing his attempts to look and feel younger: seminars, dieting, smoking cessation, dentistry and the magic of photoshopping. He concludes that his smile is “no longer frightening to children,” and his hair and skin no longer look “as if harvested from a battlefield cadaver.”
Since essays are brief by nature, one must draw conclusions about the man himself from the broader evidence this collection presents. Though the world has seen the last of Hitchens in the flesh, his words live on --- and, one suspects, we have not read the last of them.
Reviewed by Barbara Bamberger Scott
The essays and reviews in this collection come from The Atlantic, Slate, and Vanity Fair. They begin with Che Guevara and end with George Orwell. In between we are treated to Hitchens' acerbic observations on the literary and political worlds, including analyses of Rushdie, Lermontov, Naipaul, Dickens, various Clintons and Bushes, as well as an induction of Barack Obama as a "cool cat." Hitchens is particularly unsparing to his fellow journalists, singling out for special scorn so-called celebrity reporters and "news-anchors" too incompetent to do more than lob softballs at mendacious politicians. He turns a disdainful eye on US politics in both blue and red shades but also provides a heartfelt account of his decision to become an American citizen in the early 2000s. We should never forget that Hitchens was one of the great wits of our time, and in this volume we have a good sampling of that with the three part "On the Limits of Self-Improvement" and "The True Spirit of Christmas."
Apparently there are many more of Hitchens' essays and reviews still uncollected in book form, which is some of the best news I've heard in quite awhile. A great voice has been stilled, but his words live on.
If you enjoyed Arguably, you will certainly enjoy this. If you are new to Hitch, I don't see why this isn't a good place to start.
I think that is book will go down as the model for future essay collections
Hitchens himself would (I hope) be happy with it
The essays are awesome, as we've come to expect from Hitchens
The best part is that the essays are not in completely random order. There is some degree of topic consistency
My 4 star rating comes from the fact I don't fully agree with putting book reviews in with fantastic essays.
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