But I write for myself, for my own pleasure. And I want to be left alone to do it. - J.D. Salinger ^(;,;)^
It is hard to not love Hitchens. Or hate him. God I miss him. He was one of those journalists and public intellectuals (yes, that is a tired phrase) that constantly made me feel I needed to up my game a bit. I would read a Hitchens article in Vanity Fair or Slate or about anywhere and realize that I hadn't read enough, thought enough, and certainly not crafted my thoughts well enough. Tail between my legs I would strive to do better. I didn't always agree with Hitchens, but reading him was like watching a master be masterly.
A lot of these essays I've read before on the internet or in some glossy magazine profile. I was always amazed at the voracity of his appetite. He consumed books. He fed on ideas. He was a humanist at the very highest level of human. I don't mean that to sound like I'm worshiping him or unglued. He had his faults. Many of them. But his biases and bigotries were informed by his love of people and ideas. Often those who thought they were on his side would find him pounding at their door asking for an explanation or exposing their hypocrisy. He would attack sacred cows (Mother Theresa ... see what I did there?), pull down idols (Bill Clinton) and defend his sacred (free speech, life, liberty) with the savagery of a wild beast. He reminded me of some weird love child of George Orwell (doesn't every English public school educated journalist want to BE George Orwell's love child?) and Graham Greene. He was Orwell in his defense of the defenseless. He was Greene in his need to get out into the mix, the mess of the word/world and figure this shit out. What does this mean? How does this work? Why is this happening? These are questions that left no one safe. Not even friends (Martin Amis). And GODS help his enemies (Insert religous dogmatist here).
Reading this selection of his later essays was like walking through a neighborhood I frequented a lot in my thirties. He was a major voice of my growing up. I would read Christopher Hitchens and Andrew Sullivan and wonder why we couldn't breed the same here in the US. I would watch him debate someone on YouTube and be amazed at how well he could do completely drunk. I miss the lush. I miss the brain. I miss Hitch.
The only issue I have with the audo version of this book is the production. There were just a couple gltches. The chapters on Isaac Newton and Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall were braided together a bit. Other than that it was a near perfect read of a near perfect collection.
I've been a fan of the good Mr. Hitchens for a few years now. Though being as young as I am means that I've only recently come to appreciate his essays. This worked well to help me hear many of those that came out when I was barely 11 years of age. Of the more recent ones, only ones from vanity fair were the ones I knew, so it was exciting to get to hear such a large and comprehensive selection.
The only thing I felt was off was mentioned in the review below(i.e. that Hitch wasn't the one to read this, but, as sick as he is, I understand.)
History enthusiast with military and legal background.
There are times when I am completely taken aback with the sheer genius of select members of our species. The way Hitchens wrote was so impressive, I often found myself thinking that he has no peer. I didn't agree with everything he said, but I had to concede, what he said could not have been articulated in a more entertaining or convincing manner.
Here is my only problem with the narration: the author didn't have the chance to record his own work. No fault of Mr. Prebble. But Hitchens was fun to listen to as well as read.
More than anything, this book humbled me. I like to think I am smart, and eloquent. But after this, I felt like an illiterate chump.
You likely won't agree with everything the man said, but you owe it to yourself to at least listen and let your beliefs get challenged.
One master-passion in the br east, like Aaron's serpent, swallows all the rest. A. Pope
No book has challenged and amused me as much as this brilliant collection of over a hundred Christopher Hitchens' essays.
Before buying this book, I was not a big fan. I realize now, regrettably, that I just wasn't paying attention all those years he was around, at least not to anything other than his atheism and what I thought was his supercilious air on a couple of TV programs I cruised by on my remote.
I have discovered a gold mine, it seems to me, of Hitchens' hyper-intelligent, mordant wit and his textbook knowledge of such a vast array of topics [see below]. While his lexicon was wide and deep, he wrote in risible, rhythmic sentences that ebbed and flowed while he whaled on hypocrisy or satirized politicians or essayed on annoyances, affinities and amusements.
To give just a couple of examples, in his piece, "As American as Apple Pie," published in the July 2006 Vanity Fair, he noted of a certain American affinity, "The crucial word [...] doesn't come into the American idiom until the 1940s, when it was (a) a part of the gay underworld and (b) possibly derived from the jazz scene and its oral instrumentation. But it has never lost its supposed Victorian origin, which was "below-job" (cognate, if you like, with the now archaic "going down"). This term from London's whoredom still has a faint whiff of contempt.
... Stay with me. I've been doing the hard thinking for you. the three-letter "job," with its can-do implications, also makes the term especially American.... Certainly by the time of the war in Vietnam, the war-correspondent David Leitch recorded reporters swapping notes: "When you get to Da Nang ask for Mickey Mouth..."
Another piece, in which he wrote of his disappointment with Vidal Gore's rapid post-9/11 disintegration entitled "Vidal Loco," (Vanity Fair, Feb. 2010), he quipped, "Vidal in his decline has fans like David Letterman's, who laugh in all the wrong places lest they suspect themselves of not having a good time."
After I bought this audiobook, and started listening, I was so fascinated, so amused and stimulated that I immediately bought the e-book as well. I find I can read or listen to these essays over and over, and laugh at something anew on each subsequent revisit.
It's broken into the following sections:
All American (20 essays on things like "Jefferson versus the Muslim Pirates," to "Vladimir Nabokov: Hurricane Lolita" and "Mark Twain: American Radical.")
Eclectic Affinities (27 essays on topics like, "The Dark Side of Dickens," "W. Somerset Maugham: Poor Old Willie," "Graham Greene: I'll Be Damned," and "Harry Potter: The Boy Who Lived.")
Amusements, Annoyances and Disappointments (8 essays such as "Stieg Larsson: The Author Who Played with Fire," "As American as Apple Pie," and "So Many Men's Rooms, So Little Time" (see Sen. Larry Craig))
Offshore Accounts (25 with titles like, "North Korea: A Nation of Racist Dwarves," and "Worse than Nineteen Eighty-Four")
Legacies of Totalitarianism (11 essays from "Isabel Allende: Chile Redux" to "W.G. Sebald: Requiem for Germany")
Words' Worth (16 essays, such as "When the King Saved God" (on King James I's translation of the Bible) and "The You Decade" [Slate, Apr. 2007] and "A Very, Very Dirty Word").
Simon Prebble does an excellent job portraying the rapid-fire witticisms, the legerity and the incandescence of the late, great Christopher Hitchens.
"Arguably" is the cynosure of all essay collections: 28 1/2 hours; 107 Hitchens' polymorphous essays. I cannot commend it highly enough. You won't regret the purchase.
A fantastic set of essays, brilliantly delivered
I openly wept at the end- to realize the world's loss of this intellect
Hitchens puts a lot of thoughts into a few words; his economy of words make one want to enjoy the thought or, perhaps the way it is expressed by a master of English. But, alas, this is the first book I have encountered on Audible where the narrator spews out the words so fast that it is impossible to keep up with the author's train of thought, let alone appreciate the style of writing. Granted the hard cover book is rather large, but don't skimp on audio space by racing through the reading of the book...
After attempting to listen to this book, I had to go out and buy the hard cover. This is the first book I have had this issue with. I have listened to many of Hitchen's debates on my IPod and have had no issue when the author speaks himself. This is clearly the narrator scurrying hastily through the book. Do we get paid by the quantity of books narrated, so that a short book is paid the same as a lengthy tome like Arguably? Doubtable as this may be, it is the only possible reason I could see for the TV and radio-like
Read Slower. A lot slower.
The book itself is great, I've finished part of it on Kindle--I love Hitchen's irreverent wit and sharp mind--but the Audible version is just AWFUL! I have purchased hundreds of books from Audible and never felt the need to review any one of them. I've also been mildly annoyed by the amount of complaining I see on Audible about narrators, because, up until now, though I found some of them better than others, I've never heard one so seriously bad I'd think to mention it. Until now. The book is literally unlistenable. Between the narrator's speaking *very* rapidly and the sound quality being unusually low in every format I am unable to make out the words--at all--even straining to understand. I have tried different settings on my equalizer in an attempt to listen to this book, but I remain unable to make out any of the words. It's a complete waste of a credit, because I won't be able to understand any of this book in audio format. That Audible would release this book with this narrator's rapid-fire speech and the extraordinarily low audio quality is a great disappointment! Buy this book in dead-tree or ebook format. It's a great book. But don't waste a credit, or your heard-earned cash, on the Audible version.
I really liked some other Hitchens rants and really expected to like this big book of Hitchens' "MMmmmm I say oooold boiy, I don't much care for (insert whatever it is Hitchens just saw or heard here).." but it is the same rant over and over and over with a different subject. Narrator was good. I made it through nearly 7 hours before giving up. So repetitive. Had a few chuckles and learned a few interesting things. Maybe I can finish it some day. In any event, back to things that are engaging for now.
I have listened to this several times and will no doubt listen several more. because I learn something new that i missed on the last listen. I Love this book! and the narration is outstanding!