Arguably by Christopher Hitchens
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Cannonball Read IV: Arguably by Christopher Hitchens

By LurkeyTurkey | Book Reviews | November 23, 2012 | Comments ()

"Stay with me. I've done the hard thinking for you." --Christopher Hitchens

Truer words, Mr. Hitchens. This collection of essays, Arguably, is an amalgam from his contributions to Vanity Fair, Slate, The Guardian, and The Atlantic, as well as some introductions to other novels, etc. What a collection! I thoroughly enjoyed every essay, even those with which I did not agree. The Hitchens approach is one of carefully thought out, well-reasoned, and eloquent (and often hilarious) design. His eye is keen, his wit is sharp, and though this tome was 750 pages (or 45 hours on audiobook), I flew through it.

The topics discussed were so wide in range, I'll admit I was skeptical that he would be able to a) keep my interest in topics I would not have chosen to read and b) address each topic with the same degree of insight and passion. I was wrong on both counts, and delightfully to be so. Waterboarding, Hitler, Marx, Graham Greene, the Flashman series, September the 11th - all discussed beautifully and insightfully. He even had essays on the Harry Potter series, and Stieg Larssen. It was a fascinating few days.

Mixed in with the more heady topics were those of the naughty sense of humor for which Hitchens is known, including my favorite piece: "As American as Apple Pie," a history of the American ascendancy of fellatio. Another famous piece, "Why Women Aren't Funny," was just as irreverent and well-written as the first time I read it.

Threads run through the essays, with allusions to Animal Farm, 1984, Evelyn Waugh, and September the 11th appearing often. I am grateful to Hitchens for introducing me to Rebecca West and Elmo Zumwalt, two authors I am eager to read.

I had a lot of respect for Mr. Hitchens before reading this collection of works. Now, however, I find myself mourning his passing as though he was a dear family friend. He is truly missed.

This review is part of the volunteer Cannonball Read IV. Read all about it, and find more of LurkeyTurkey's reviews on the group blog.

(Note: Any revenue generated from purchases made through the affiliate links in this review will be donated in entirety to the American Cancer Society.)

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  • Dredd

    I'm reading this now and it is just brilliant. Reading Hitchens always feels as if you are being personally addressed. I don't exaggerate at all to say that his work has had a profound effect on me. He did a lot to show me what it is to be an intellectually and morally serious person.

  • kali yuga
  • Salieri2


    "Hitchens' style—ironically, given his hatred for tyranny and love of free expression—brooked no dissent. There was little room for good-faith disagreement or loyal opposition. His enemies were not just wrong, they were stupid or mean or small-minded or liars or cheats or children or cowards. It was thrilling and gratifying to see that articulate viciousness deployed against the Clinton cartel, or Mother Teresa, or Henry Kissinger—against power and pretense. To see it deployed in favor of war, on behalf of a dullard and scion, against the hysterical mother of a dead son was nauseating."

  • He was a Trotskyist in his early years after all. I think that tends to explain how he would often attack anyone who didn't hold his same views with such venom.

    Honestly its the reason I liked him so much. I preferred flawed heroes. Much like Hunter S Thompson, you would never really want to hang out with him, but reading him was always entertaining.

  • Salieri2

    Ohhhh yes, I remember that "why women aren't funny" essay. Disappointing. The guy was capable of making this joke:

    [Limited] is their relish for gags about premature ejaculation. ("Premature for whom?" as a friend of mine indignantly demands to know.)

    ...yet apparently incapable of asking himself the question "funny to whom?" Male gaze.

  • mswas

    I have never read any Hitchens, but I will remedy that at the library tomorrow.

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