Since its publication, The Rights of Man has been celebrated, criticized, maligned, and suppressed. But here, commentator Christopher Hitchens, Paine's natural heir, marvels at its forethought and revels in its contentiousness. Above all, he shows how Thomas Paine's Rights of Man forms the philosophical cornerstone of the world's most powerful republic: the United States of America.
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©2007 Christopher Hitchens; (P)2007 Tantor Media Inc.
"Lucid and fast-moving....As with all Hitchens, well worth reading." (Kirkus)
"Brilliant portrait....An attractive introduction to Paine's life and work as a whole....Hitchens remains a great writer, and a thinker of depth, range, and vigour." (Prospect)
I get to bottle feed baby raccoons, throw mice at a coyote, and muck out the bear house at Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care! I love my new town!
Somehow I had expected this would be simply Tom Paine's writing, not a whole book about him. History, philosophy and politics are not my strengths, but I've lived long enough and traveled enough that I do care about these things. I found another audio book on the same topics, Founding Brothers, very difficult listening, although I believed it was well narrated. This book by contrast is almost suspenseful. The narrator reads with great understanding, but the book is written so as to be interesting. This author has an exciting mind!
Back in high school I didn't really get it about the deists. And who cared about the Louisiana Purchase? Paine was already trying to solve the problem of slavery, develop a plan for freed slaves. Paine even foresaw a need for a welfare system. Well, goodness! It's a most stimulating book. Educational, exciting, most worthwhile.
I write for myself, for my own pleasure. And I want to be left alone to do it. - Salinger ^(;,;)^
“In a time when both rights and reason are under several kinds of open and covert attack, the life and writing of Thomas Paine will always be part of the arsenal on which we shall need to depend.”
― Christopher Hitchens, Thomas Paine's Rights of Man
While there is no imperfect time to read about Thomas Paine or read Christopher Hitchens, 2016 with Brexit and Trump seem to almost BEG for a steroid shot of rationality and intelligence. I read this because I was tired of the news, tired of the discourse, tired of FB debates and arguments that seemed inane and inept (I once saw a debate over some political issue that was carried out entirely using memes). I wondered how we could have dropped from a period where big ideas were discussed by big men (yes, and big women: see Mary Wollstonecraft) to this?
Anyway, about 10 years ago The Atlantic Monthly Press published this book as part of their series Books that Changed the World. Think about this for a minute. Thomas Paine, a largely self-educated son of a corset-maker, wrote a book that would be included on a short list among such books as:
1. Holy Bible: King James Version
2. Machiavelli's The Prince
3. Plato's The Republic
4. Darwin's The Origin of Species
5. The Qur'an
6. Homer's The Iliad/The Odyssey
7. Smith's The Wealth of Nations
8. Clausewitz's On War
9. Marx's Das Kapital
That isn't a lazy peer group. Think about this too. Thomas Paine had his fingers directly in two revolutions (American and French) and was working on a third (England). His words seem almost as natural as the Bible. His concepts are woven into the fabric of our modern sense of freedom, rights, democracy. He is THE prime example that simple words, in the right hands, can change the course of global events. Obviously, the French and American revolutions most certainly would have still happened without Thomas Paine, but the revolutions and the ideas behind them would not have been the same. This guy's words were matches of poetry AND power.
It is amazing, also, to me to think Thomas Paine didn't produce just one revolutionary book/pamphlet, but three (more, but I'll focus on his big three). At different times of my life I have loved, reverenced, and revered Common Sense, The Age of Reason, and Rights of Man as the great Paine book. Each seems destined to continue to be a source of inspiration and direction for those seeking freedom, rights, liberty, and justice. It is hard to imagine my country and the world as it would have been without him. IF that isn't tribute enough, here is final from Bertrand Russell (this appears in the front of the book):
"To all these champions of the oppressed Paine set an example of courage, humanity, and single-mindedness. When public issues were involved, he forgot personal prudence. The world decided, as it usually does in such cases, to punish him for his lack of self-seeking; to this day his fame is less than it would have been if his character had been less generous. Some worldly wisdom is required even to secure praise for the lack of it." - Bertrand Russell, The Fate of Thomas Paine.
I picked this up after hearing Thomas Paine's unwavering irreligious convictions referred to by Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins in their atheist literature. Unfortunately there was not as much information in this vein as I'd hoped, though the last chapter(s?) did recount his later life when his religious views came into sharper focus. Mostly this was interesting in terms of American/British history, and the history of philosophy about human rights.
As others have noted, it is occasionally difficult to tell where a quotation ends and the main text resumes; but genterally the narration is expemplary with some very nice Scottish brogue thrown in for spice.
Addicted to Audible since 2009
Paine was a genius in his own time and his story his truly a remarkable one. His ideas and philosophies were spot on and overall, he's easily my favorite "founding father". With that said, though, this audio book is dull and I had a tough time trying to keep focus to listen to it.
If you want the freedom of "reading" (listening) while, say, driving.
Christopher Hitchen's lucid writing style.
He was clearly prepared and made the material audibly digestible.
Yes, and it's rather short so this may be a distinct possibility for many.
This books ends up talking about Edmund Burke more it does about the Thomas Paine. It does not quote from The Rights of Man once.
It only covers Paine's life in the US during the revolution, and during the revolution in France. It cannot be considered a biography because it does not tell of his beginnings—something I would have enjoyed knowing.
The only upside of Nashville traffic is the number of audible books I can devour in my weekly commute.
Should be read
The premise is the story of liberty and the development of democracy in these United States.
SImon Vance was good enough.
No entirely possible. Nor should it be.
"A fascinating and erudite biography"
Christopher's writing is as sublime as ever. Witty and insightful. Only Hitchens could make a potentially dry biography such a "page-turner".
"Thomas was a Paine"
Wow, this man was central to modern politics and I barely knew him. Christopher presents Thomas in a fair light. Showing his strengths and genius and the demanding road he travelled as very human. He was a great debater and policitcal writer. The best brains in the world could not defeat his arguments. Comparing this man to modern politicans , he was prepared to offer his life for his politics. His influence on world politics was perhaps the greatest in history. We owe him great respect. This is a highlights book, which distills Paines history in a Johhnie Walker Black Label blend. It encourages me to read Paines work and other books on this great man.
"History rather than philosophy"
I'm interested in the rights of man (and woman) but I really can't get into history. I guess it is interesting that Thomas Paine was the son of a corset maker and at various times in his life also earnt his crust in this profession. Is it? That is my problem with history. I don't like irrelevant facts. It is a little bit interesting to me that Paine was willing to use the bible for persuasive commonalities in his rhetoric and then published a critique of the bible that pretty much argued against its use as a source of evidence in arguments. Sort of mess we all get into, hahaha! I'm trying to say this book is simply not for me, but I feel that this is because of me, not the book. I'd be dead bored by a book on football too, but it might be a good book.
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