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
Faced with mindless duty, when an audio book player slips into a rear pocket and mini buds pop into ears, old is made new again.
Hitchens’ capacious knowledge and clever phrasing intimidates and delights casual and committed pundits. Whether to heaven hell or the great void, Hitchen’s passing is a great loss. Hitchens’ proves that one may fail as a memoir maven (“Hitch 22”); yet brilliantly succeed with insightful essays about literature, other writers, and a Marxian view of the world.
This rough categorization of Hitchens’ essays is wholly inadequate because in truth Hitchens covers a gamut of historic events in the Middle East and a wide range of subjects from water boarding to the evolution of the word “blow job”. Hitchens is considerably more than the sum of this inadequate review.
At the very least, a reader of Hitchen’s essays will be exposed to a wider world of literature, politics, and belief than most slingers of solipsistic clap trap. Hitchens does not always hit the mark of enlightenment or entertainment in his essays but he is rarely boring. Hitchens’ forays into Pakistan, North Korea, and Iran and his offer to be water boarded are tributes to his manic effort to know the truth of what he writes.
One can salute Hitchens’ intellect and bravery without necessarily believing what he believes. His pursuit of first hand experience; his erudition and wide literary exposure are what any writer or reader admires. One believes he will be loved and missed by many. “Arguably” is a fun and fascinating profile of a very interesting human being.
I have now listened to 28 of the 32 hours of this book of essays. It took me a while to get into it (it has been in my library for over a year). At first, it seemed so dense that I would listen to 1/2 or one essay and then take a break for a month or so. Then, something happened and it got much more interesting. I learned about writers in a way I had never thought about them and historical events from the viewpoint of a person who has thought deeply about issues of contemporary history.
Hitchens has a particular viewpoint. He was unabashedly against religion, especially in the ways in which religion has been misused. He has absolutely no patience with the use of religion to torture others. He traveled in Africa and Afghanistan during disruptions and wars. He experienced waterboarding and described the sensation in detail, while admitting that it must have been worse for those who had less trust that they would live through the experience.
One interesting experience is how much attention he pays to women who have written on history or as novelist. His (possibly) favorite novelist was George Eliot.
I heard about his impending death and then his death when I was not familiar with his work. His essay just before his death, in, I believe, the NY Review of Books, was to dense for me to read. Now, I am so sorry he is gone. I would like to argue with him about several of his points, or ask him for even more details. Of course, I wouldn't have a chance with such a sardonic wit.
Hitchens' choice of words has always been a highlight to his articles. Considering the book is a collection of many of his articles, it goes without saying that the text will be full of wonder and clarity.
During his story of Taiwan, the introduction of the children there will forever stick in my mind. The book paints such an unfiltered, powerful image that, while reading, I had to take a few seconds to compose myself and journey on.
This was an excellent performance. I've not heard previous ones but, when comparing performances to listen to in the future, his Mr Prebble's name will certainly be the one that I choose when searching for books with multiple narrators.
The final chapters of the book bring good humor to the collection. This is a good thing, considering the previous chapters deal with sometimes drastic historical issues. I laughed heartily and, though no tears were actually shed while reading, they did well up and begin to protest their containment.
Considering Hitchens enjoyed using little phrases of multiple languages to drive home a point every now and then in an article, it might help to have an online translator handy so you can type in a phrase and fully understand what the author meant. This is a trademark Hitchens occurrence and takes place within almost every article. So, as Hitch might say, 'Se preparer.'
With the exceptions of some oddly stunted emotional outbursts about Muslims and women, Hitchens can be counted on to clear-headedly cut straight to the center of whatever topic he is discussing. Most of these start with an idiosyncratic personal observation before expanding in to an informal, even conversational, tour of CH's thoughts on the topic. The effect is a great combination of classroom lecture and barstool chat.
Not enough essay anthologies in audible form to draw a good comparison here.
Two things are remarkable about this audio book.
The first is the quality of the content. Hitchens' mind, evidently, possessed a voracious curiosity, an enormous capacity, and the gift of incisive synthesis. Additionally, he had the ability to articulate this combination with precision and delight.
The second is the rare, to me, ability of the narrator to match the clarity of the prose. He makes no attempt to clarify meaning, merely and intelligently allowing it to come through in the phrasing of the writer's sentences and the shapes of his paragraphs. The result is the clear emergence of both sense and the author's voice.
The listener is very fortunate to find both at once.
Excellent prose, wit and humor written by an intelligent caring human being who can not stand bs. His knowledge of the english literature is mind boggling. Current events mixed with history and literary references baked and served. Narrator is excellent. In any other narrator, some of the essays may sound dry or petulant. Mt Prebble enhances the essays.
Fascinating history and philosophy lessons, not to mention economics, politics, etc., etc., are all contained in Hitchens essays (a title that is a little misleading as many are book reviews--but certainly more essay-like and with way more depth than the usual book review). His breadth is breath-taking and the language/vocabulary extraordinary. Sometimes I didn't know the meaning of a marvelous word he was stringing together in a powerful phrase with other wonderful words, and,since I was listening in the car, I couldn't stop to look it up, An intellectual challenge and delight!
Not applicable, though I appreciated the essays/reviews involving the founding fathers, Carl Marx, and other well known historical figures.
The personal history of Karl Marx and how his work has been distorted was of great interest.
I really enjoyed Agrguably but it was rather intellectual "heavy lifting" so I would not reccomend listening to it in the car or before you go to bed. Hitchens really requires your undivided attention and your critical thinking skills.
This collection by Hitchens has a real post 9/11 slant. What makes Hitch really interesting is he is not a product of the current black and white; left and right debate that seems to dominate current discourse. The book is broken into numerous parts (America; literature; humour; international corresponsence; shadows of Totalitaranism; and the written word). I liked the Ameican and Humour sections as I have a rather broad understanding of American culture/literasture/history and the Humour section is just plain funny.
The only fault I had in the book was more my problem than HItchens there were a few moments (heck whole essays) that my eyes glazed over because I had no frame of reference to what Hitch was talking about (re. he would discuss a writter or political movement that I knew nothing about). But this was rather rare and I can not fault Hitch for challenging the reader/listener and engaging in high level discourse on subjects rather than just introducing the subjecf and giving a very broad slant. When I did have an understanding of a subject (even elementary) I found the essays very enlightening especially the way he mixes politics, literature, and history all in the same essay about one particular topic.
Hitch you will be sorely missed in the world of 2 second sound bites, mindless reality TV, and black and white discourse
Absolutely amazing. The sections on German National Socialism in the last third were, admittedly, a little dry. However, the rest is pure gold. The only improvement would have been to have the author record all the essays; the impossibility of this now is not lost on me.
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