A new collection of essays from Hitchens (Hitch-22: A Memoir, 2010, etc.), his first since 2004.
Whether on the invasion of Iraq or the merits of Vladimir Nabokov’s fiction, master controversialist Hitchens has an informed opinion. Here he gathers a hefty helping of work over the last few years, published in venues such as the Atlantic and Vanity Fair. Sometimes his pieces concern passing matters, though they are seldom ephemeral themselves; more often he writes about what he wishes to write about, topics that require weighty but not dense (and usually not heavy-handed) consideration. On Gore Vidal, for instance, Hitchens gets in a lovely zinger worthy of Vidal himself: “The price of knowing him was exposure to some of his less adorable traits, which included his pachydermatous memory for the least slight or grudge and a very, very minor tendency to bring up the Jewish question in contexts where it didn’t quite belong.” Hitchens balances old interests with new discoveries; he was one of the first to write at length about Stieg Larsson, for instance, whose death by “causes that are symptoms of modern life” he endorses. He also turns to his long-standing fascination for the totalitarian mind. He characterizes Adolf Hitler as holding opinions that are “trite and bigoted and deferential,” while “the prose in Mein Kampf is simply laughable in its pomposity.” Hitchens revels in theoretical questions and in stirring up trouble: His pieces on religion seem calculated to offend as many believers as possible, which is of course the point. Still, he is also practical, offering up some fine advice on how to argue points over a Georgetown dinner table or down at the local watering hole—just say, “Yes, but not in the South?” and, he avers, “You will seldom if ever be wrong, and you will make the expert perspire.”
Vintage Hitchens. Argumentative and sometimes just barely civil—another worthy collection from this most inquiring of inquirers.