September 16, 2011

Arguably: Essays by Christopher Hitchens

All I propose to do in this post is collect in one place the book reviews published at various places.

From The Telegraph:


Excerpts:

Every generation tends to look silly to the one after; those beehive hairdos, those chain smokers. Reacting to previous experience, we don’t make progress, necessarily. Vicars have randy daughters and randy daughters give birth to boys who in turn become vicars.

Salman Rushdie told me once that Hitchens was one of the two funniest people he had known (the other was Bruce Chatwin). I was unconvinced until I read in Arguably the following passage: “Is there anything less funny than a woman relating a dream she’s just had? (‘And then Quentin was there somehow. And so were you, in a strange sort of way. And it was all so peaceful.’ Peaceful?).” Of all the beliefs from which he has yet to deviate is the conviction that “the people who must never have power are the humourless”. 


From The New York Times:


Excerpts:

Anyone who occasionally opens one of our more serious periodicals has learned that the byline of Christopher Hitchens is an opportunity to be delighted or maddened — possibly both — but in any case not to be missed. He is our intellectual omnivore, exhilarating and infuriating, if not in equal parts at least with equal wit. He has been rather famously an aggressive critic of God and his followers, after cutting his sacrilegious teeth on Mother Teresa. He wrote a deadpan argument for trying Henry Kissinger as a war criminal, then was branded an apostate by former friends on the left for vigorously supporting the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. (He memorably — a lot of what Hitchens has written merits the adverb — shot back that his antiwar critics were “the sort who, discovering a viper in the bed of their child, would place the first call to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.”) And he is dying of esophageal cancer, a fact he has faced with exceptional aplomb.


If there is a God, and he lacks a sense of irony, he will send Hitchens to the hottest precinct of hell. If God does have a sense of irony, Hitchens will spend eternity in a town that serves no liquor and has no library. Either way, heaven will be a less interesting place.

The definitive Christopher Hitchens profile:


The New Yorker:


Excerpts:


At a dinner a few months ago in San Francisco with his wife, Carol Blue, and some others, Hitchens wore a pale jacket and a shirt unbuttoned far enough to hint at what one ex-girlfriend has called “the pelt of the Hitch.” Hitchens, who only recently gave up the habit of smoking in the shower, was working through a pack of cigarettes while talking to two women at his end of the table: a Stanford doctor in her early thirties whom he’d met once before, and a friend of hers, a librarian. He spoke with wit and eloquence about Iranian politics and what he saw as the unnecessary handsomeness of Gavin Newsom, the mayor of San Francisco.

We were in Hitchens’s home in Washington. His top-floor apartment, with a wide view that includes No. 1 Observatory Circle, the Vice-Presidential residence, is large and handsome: sparely furnished, with a grand piano, books piled on the floor, a few embassy invitations on the mantelpiece, and prints and paintings propped against the walls rather than hung from them; these include an oil painting of Hitchens and Blue (a dark-haired, darkly dressed woman—a young Susan Sontag) with coffee, whiskey, and cigarettes on a table in front of them




Hitchens has the life that a spirited thirteen-year-old boy might hope adulthood to be: he wakes up when he likes, works from home, is married to someone who wears leopard-skin high heels, and conducts heady, serious discussions late into the night. I arrived just after midday, and Hitchens said that it was “time for a cocktail”; he poured a large drink. His hair flopped over his forehead, and he pushed it back using just the tips of his fingers, his hand as unbending as a mannequin’s.


He noted that he never likes going to bed. “I’m not that keen on the idea of being unconscious,” he said. “There’s plenty of time to be unconscious coming up.” In Washington, his socializing usually takes place at home. “I can have some sort of control over who comes, what gets talked about, what gets eaten, what gets drunk, and the ashtrays,” he said. “Call me set in my ways.” (Hitchens’s predominant tone is quietly self-parodying. Even his farewells are ironic: “It’s been real,” “Stay cool.”) Guests at the Hitchens salon include people he first knew in London, who call him “Hitch,” including Salman Rushdie, Ian McEwan, and his great friend Martin Amis (“The only blond I have ever really loved,” Hitchens once said); long-standing American friends like Christopher Buckley and Graydon Carter; an international network of dissidents and intellectuals; and, these days, such figures as David Frum, the former Bush Administration speechwriter, and Grover Norquist, the conservative activist. In September, he hosted Barham Salih, a Kurd who is a Deputy Prime Minister of the new Iraqi government. Many guests can report seeing Hitchens step out of the room after dinner, write a column, then step back almost before the topic of conversation has changed.


From The Boston Globe:

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