The first new collection of essays by Christopher Hitchens since 2004, Arguably offers an indispensable key to understanding the passionate and skeptical spirit of one of our most dazzling writers, widely admired for the clarity of his style, a result of his disciplined and candid thinking. Topics range from ruminations on why Charles Dickens was among the best of writers and the worst of men to the haunting science fiction of J.G. Ballard; from the enduring legacies of Thomas Jefferson and George Orwell to the persistent agonies of anti-Semitism and jihad.
Hitchens even looks at the recent financial crisis and argues for the enduring relevance of Karl Marx. The book forms a bridge between the two parallel enterprises of culture and politics. It reveals how politics justifies itself by culture, and how the latter prompts the former. In this fashion, Arguably burnishes Christopher Hitchens' credentials as - to quote Christopher Buckley - our "greatest living essayist in the English language."
©2011 Christopher Hitchens (P)2011 Hachette Audio
???Arguably??? is great but it is not of the ???god is Not Great??? genre; it's a choice selection of Christopher Hitchens??? own essays, and of a vaster scope than the global-fallout-from-religion that the 'god' title focuses on. It is riveting in just the same way, however, and the temptation to adopt Hitchens' lucid opinions as my own is also similar.
???Arguably??? covers a wild variety of topics. Some I may not have typically sought out but all are worth reading and for me, re-reading. It has introduced many intriguing new titles, authors and subjects for my to-read stack. I???ve kept the globe spinning and Wikipedia fired-up throughout; memorized a little of the Rubayat and seen Animal Farm acted out in many times and places. The political essays are more than a few ranks above my typical American understanding but my perceptions are a bit sharper for having read them anyway (and my position on torture is validated). His graphic, sumi-style images from his experiences in Viet Nam, Cuba, Pakistan, Iran and many more, are intense. While reading, (I also bought the print version for proper mulling over), I???ve lost my optimism for humankind a few times, and re-found it almost the same number.
If I had a complaint, it???s that, at 749 pages, it???s still too short. Thankfully, everything Hitchens has written is archived "somewhere". In all, ???Arguably??? is brilliant and it???s the perfect book for a reader who wants to level up a few.
These essays are extremely varied in subject matter and tone and make a worthy addition to the last Hitchens works recorded for audio (usually by the author but, given his current medical condition, this seems not really feasible right now even if Hitch is, far and away, his own best reader). There are lots of political essays, but a whole lot of his extended literary essays (many from The Atlantic and Vanity Fair), which are often an extraordinary pleasure, as well as being exceedingly well-judged. I am a lunatic for books like this, and this is now one of my favorite Audible offerings (this past year or so, others along the same lines include Tony Judt's Reappraisals and Simon Callow's A Life in Pieces, which you need to check out if you go for responsible left wing politics and theatre history, which are two preoccupations of mine.). The four stars ratings are only because Simon Prebble is wonderful, but isn't Hitch and because I would have chosen a few different essays. Otherwise, this is a true five-star, highly recommended selection. The price is also great, considering how much you get.
Keep this sort of thing up, please.
This collection both challenged and entertained me. It was my first exposure to this cosmopolitan polymath and seems like a good primer. Being collected from 3 different magazines over a decade full of change, conflict and innovation broadens the scope of the book beyond most collections. The author discusses literature in his book reviews in the Atlantic, current affairs in Slate and social commentary in Vanity Fair. I think the Slate pieces were my favorite because they felt most genuine--the writing is less formal and the opinions more intense. There are many laugh out loud passages and many more "I've never considered it that way" moments.
The narration is spot on. Simon Prebble bites off and chews up the prose with just the right mix of confidence and humor. You get the sense that he really grasps what he is reading and not just performing a script.
Having just discovered him I am very upset that this will be his last book. However, he has been so prolific that there is little danger of ever exhausting his rich intellectual vein.
This was my first exposure to Hitchens' writing and I was blown away. I have never come across another author whose skill with the English language left me shaking my head in wonder. His knowledge of literature is astounding and the ability to pull apart books and essays in reviews and then combine the contents with information from various sources and his personal experience is breathtaking.
Some of the content is heavy, reviewing authors from the 1920s and 30s while other essays focus on contemporary issues. You will likely need ready access to a dictionary and wikipedia to thoroughly understand some of the topics but several essays inspired me to go back and pick up some of the classic books of literature.
Some people may argue with his conclusions or disagree with his political views but I don't think anyone could argue with the incredible wordsmith power.
Simon Prebble, the narrator deserved extra credit as well. Phenomenal job. You'd think it was Hitchens reading his own book. Prebble delivers the difficult text with emotion and confidence - a pleasure to listen to.
It was definetly worth the credit and I've already picked up another Hitchens' tilte on Audible.
I focus on fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, science, history, politics and read a lot. I try to review everything I read.
This is a really nice set of reviews and essays. The best is when he personally undergoes waterboarding. The worst part about this audio book is there are too many references I wanted to note to remember. The only way to effectively listen to this book is to be doing nothing else and have paper and pen handy, which kind of eliminates the usefulness of an audio version (for the sighted). I did not agree with everything I heard, but virtually everything was interesting or thought provoking. The narration was simply awesome.
Hey Audible, don't raise prices and I promise to buy lots more books.
Pure Hitchens; he throws lots of $hit here with little bull. Except for the "funny women" thing, which I'm not sure Hitchens actually meant as many have taken it, each essay is brilliant.
Listen on dog walks, commutes and around the house. Welcome virtually any genre but southern fiction holds a special place in my heart.
This was not my first foray into the work of Hitchens. I read God is Not Great as well as several Vanity Fair articles prior to this set of essays. This book, however, illuminated the huge gap in intellect between Hitchens and myself. Not a surprising discovery but rather humbling. Fortunately, Hitchens himself made some progress in closing that gap as I progressed through his 100+ essays from start to finish. Because nearly all of the literary references in the first third of the book were lost on me, it almost felt like I was reading a book written in a different language but that slowly dissipated as I moved along. For the casual reader of Hitchens, be prepared for a literary challenge but don't let that challenge stop you from getting to know this prolific writer and his thought-provoking opinions on literature, politics and religion.
It just comes down to this. While I am a huge Hitchens fan and have enjoyed several of his other works, I just didn't give enough of a crap about people like John Updike, Evelyn Waugh and Graham Greene to get through the middle of this very long work. Call me uncultured. I had to turn it off. That's the problem with audiobooks of collections of essays. They are, by definition, linear. And the table of contents is not sitting right there before your eyes. (A hint to Amazon and Audible: a clickable TOC might be a nice upgrade for the Audible app's functionality...) So if one hits a boring patch, it is far more likely that the listener will stop rather than skip ahead. Perhaps I will go forward and cherry pick some other bits of Hitchens to savor in the future, but as a whole, I doubt I will ever get through this beast in its entirety. RIP, sir. Your work and legacy are both intact. I'm just too unapologetically bourgeois to consume every single word of it.
Gen-Xer, software engineer, and lifelong avid reader. Soft spots for sci-fi, fantasy, and history, but I'll read anything good.
Whether you agree with his views or not, Christopher Hitchens was part of a breed that seems to be dying off in our dumbed-down era: the public intellectual. His essays express a formidable mind and a dry, pugnacious wit. Picture some suffer-no-fools British professor holding forth with a scotch glass in hand and you have a sense of Hitchens's style. To be sure, his opinions could be controversial -- he was outspokenly anti-religious, admired Karl Marx, and detested totalitarianism and Islamic extremism so vehemently that he broke ranks with fellow liberals who weren’t so enthusiastic about George W. Bush’s wars -- but there was refreshingly clarity and lack of dissembling to them. You could take issue with Hitch’s conclusions, but you could be certain that he wasn’t going to bow to religious orthodoxy, political correctness, or cultural double-standards. Any opponent being intellectually lazy would hear about it.
Hitchens was also very well-read, which means that about a third of the essays here, which discuss books (or some literary topic), are likely to delight some readers, but bore others. I admit that, as much as I admired Hitchens’s deftness at making connections to books and authors beyond the ones under discussion, I labored through this portion of Arguably. Still, even if my knowledge of the classics is skimpy, I found some of the biographical discussion of different writers interesting. I’ll have to check out Nabokov and W. Somerset Maugham.
However, my excitement picked up when the book got to the essays on history, culture, religion, and language. Hitchens knew how to poke apart a topic and get readers to look at it differently. Has Marx turned out to be right about capitalism, and did anyone ever really implement his ideas as he would have intended? Is the Kurdish region of Iraq a model for what the rest of that country might have been? Is Pakistan really America’s ally? What lessons do we really get from Harry Potter? His infamous Vanity Fair piece, “Why Women Aren’t Funny” is bound to rankle some readers, but many of them might not pick up on the real focus of his wit. And I had a good laugh during one of the latter essays, in which he examined the disingenuous use of the word “you” by advertisers and pamphleteers -- one of many moments when he got me to ponder something from an angle I hadn’t considered before. I even learned a few new words, such as “synecdoche”. (Yay, now I can see that Charlie Kaufman movie.)
All in all, a fine sampling of the contemplations of a strong, piquant mind, and one that had a faculty for language that the English-speaking world is rapidly losing. In an attention-deficit age in which youtube, buzzfeed, and “news” channels too moronic to call by name are supplanting the art of public disquisition, Arguably reminds us of the pleasures of that art and (arguably) its importance.
I forget what Hitchens actually sounded like, but audiobook narrator Simon Prebble is pretty effective at capturing the mannerisms I tended to imagine when reading some of these pieces in their original print form.
Love to read. Love to write.
I listened to the 28 hours 26 minutes, which covered 107 essays, most which had been published in The Atlantic, Slate, Vanity Fair or the NYTimes during the 2000’s. I had never heard of Christopher Hitchens prior to this and for whatever reason it was that the book caught my attention and on impulse, I purchased it, I will forever be grateful for the unknown motivation that propelled me to do so. I cannot remember the last time that I felt such amazement at someone’s ability to speak so interestingly and well about such a wide variety of topics. Repeatedly I found myself thinking, “How could one person be so brilliant?” Even if I didn’t always agree with the content of what he was discussing or even understand what he was talking about, I found myself amazed at his command of the English language, vocabulary, use of metaphors, wit and sarcasm, sense of humor, and on and on… I kept thinking, “Who talks/writes/thinks like this anymore?” In a world filled with “thx, u2, c u l8r’s, wat u doin?” etc., it was refreshing to hear his words and thoughts, some which made me laugh out loud, some which made me wince but always, they stimulated my mind.
To read a great review of the book by the NYTimes.
Some reviewers on Audible.com felt that Simon Prebble’s narration speed was too fast. I thought his pace was perfect and his reading flawless, however, I'd recommend listening to the sample to make sure you are comfortable with the reading. (I loved it)
Mr. Hitchens passed away in Dec. 2011. I regret not having discovered him decades ago so I could have enjoyed him while he was still alive but I am thankful that I stumbled upon his work and will certainly seek out more of his writing.
Like most people with busy lives that try to balance work, family, health, and as a writer, editing and writing, I don’t take spending 28 ½ hours on anything lightly, but I’d gladly spend 2600 hours listening to his work if it meant I’d be blessed with 1% of his mental ability.
I’d highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys having their intellect not only stirred but also possibly shaken.
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