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Arguably
     

Arguably

4.3 29
by Christopher Hitchens
 

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From one of the most admired public intellectuals of our time, and a multi-award winning and #1 bestselling author, comes a collection of his most important and controversial essays on the theme of culture and politics and how the two relate.


From the Hardcover edition.

Overview

From one of the most admired public intellectuals of our time, and a multi-award winning and #1 bestselling author, comes a collection of his most important and controversial essays on the theme of culture and politics and how the two relate.


From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

Bill Keller
His range is extraordinary, both in breadth and in altitude…I…find Hitchens one of the most stimulating thinkers and entertaining writers we have, even when—perhaps especially when—he provokes. And while he clearly wants to win you over, you always sense that he is playing in part to the jury of history, which is why so much of what he might, in a rare self-deprecating moment, refer to as hackwork stands up so well to ­anthologizing.
—The New York Times Book Review
Vanity Fair
"Christopher Hitchens's selected essays are Arguably (Twelve) his finest to date."
Michael Washbum - The Boston Globe
"One of the most engaging, exciting books I've read in years . . . The writing is lovely - introduction aside, which threatens early onset pretentia - Hitchens' cold-eyed evaluation of his younger self feels honest. To be sure, "Hitch 22'' is often a chronicle of Hitchens' best efforts. He teaches us that "cheap booze is false economy'' and reveals a youth engaged in boarding school homosexuality. But thankfully, Hitchens' efforts, friends, and close calls are rendered wonderfully in this strange book. Ultimately, "Hitch 22'' is about cultivating and maintaining one's intellectual integrity. As Hitchens writes, "[I]t is always how people think that counts for much more than what they think.''. . . But memoir generates pleasure through voice and sensibility, not through comprehensiveness. Nobody ever said self-awareness must lead to self-revelation, and even if you don't like what Hitchens thinks, it's easy to admire how he thinks."
The New York Post
"Opinions are to Christopher Hitchens what oil is to Saudi Arabia. This collection, featuring his liveliest, funniest and most infamous essays....There is a time for the balanced, even-handed and sober approach - but why bother with any of that when you could be reading someone as provocative and impish as Hitchens?"
The New Yorker
"As contemptuous, digressive, righteous, and riotously funny as the rest of the author's incessant output, this memoir is an effective coming-of-age story, regardless of what one may think of the resulting adult . . . Hitchens paints a credible and even affecting self-portrait."
www.bookreporter.com
"If you find yourself in the midst of Christopher Hitchens's memoir and he hasn't said something to anger, inspire, or at least annoy you, wait a few pages. More the account of an intellectual and political odyssey than a conventional autobiography, HITCH-22 chronicles the critic-journalist-activist's often storm-tossed journey across the ideological spectrum. What makes it a most rewarding trip is that he's a traveling companion with a vigorous mind and a gift for sparkling prose."
The New Haven Advocate
"[Hitchens] indulges in both an endearing critical self-examination and an action-packed adventure story."
The New York Times Book Review
"When the colorful, prolific journalist shares a tender memory, he quickly converts it into a larger observation about politics, always for him the most crucial sphere of moral and intellectual life."
The Sunday Oregonian
Hitchens expresses ambivalence about the term "public intellectual" but, as "Hitch-22" demonstrates, it suits him. The disputatious bon vivant is alive on the page, behind the speaker's podium and in "unglamorous houses on off-peak cable TV."
The Philadelphia City Paper
"Hitchens offers up surprising revelations about the methods behind his madness as one of the world's most beloved and often hated scribes . . . bold and brassy Hitchens characteristically treats himself as the subject he knows best."
Bill Cusamano
The most erudite and astute political and social commentator of this era has written a memoir that not only give the reader a view of the man behind the words but also a perceptive look at society over the past decades. Hitchens fascinates with the life he has lived and observed and, as always, relates his story with precision and consideration.
Nicola's Books
Drew Toal
Hitch is as Hitch does, and he's not apologizing to anyone.
Time Out New York
Liz Smith
[H]e has so many great quotes and quotables . . . that one cannot read his latest masterpiece for having to stop, find a pencil and page stickers in order to underline and signify his many remarks, each greater than the other.
wowOwow.com
Ed Luce
Few writers can match his cerebral pyrotechnics. Fewer still can emulate his punch as an intellectual character assassin. It is hard not to admire the sheer virtuosity of his prose ... With Hitchens one simply goes along for the ride. The destination hardly matters.
The Financial Times
Mark Oppenheimer
[D]electable, sassy fun . . . this book is intelligent and humane . . . Hitch-22 reminded me why I love the author of The Missionary Position, his fervent slapping of Mother Teresa, and his book about the war crimes of Henry Kissinger. Hitchens takes no prisoners, not even himself.
The New Haven Review
Ariel Gonzales
After reading Hitch-22, the only thing you can be sure of is that this flawed knight will not breathe contentedly unless he has a dragon to slay.
The Miami Herald
Diana McLellan
... a fat and juicy memoir of a fat and juicy life.
The Washington Post
Alexandra Alter
... a complex portrait of a public intellectual.
The Wall Street Journal
Jeff Simon
[An] extraordinary memoir by a truly astonishing figure of our literary age . . . This is among the most awaited books of the season, and while it confounds, misleads, exasperates and, on occasion, even bores, it also entertains to an almost shocking degree and illuminates almost as much. I laughed out loud - raucously and continuously - reading this book.
Buffalo News
Dwight Garner
Hitch-22 is among the loveliest paeans to the dearness of one's friends . . . I've ever read. The business and pleasure sides of Mr. Hitchens's personality can make him seem, whether you agree with him or not, among the most purely alive people on the planet.
The New York Times
Kyle Smith
Whether he's dodging bullets in Sarajevo, dissing Bill Clinton, (with whom he says he shared a girlfriend at Oxford) or explaining his switch from leftist to Iraq war supporter, this foreign correspondent, pundit, and bon vivant makes for an enlightening companion. Give HITCH-22 an 11 out of 10 for smarts, then double it for entertainment value.
People Magazine
Lee Seigel
a fascinating, absorbing book: the rare contemporary memoir that is the record of a life of true accomplishment and authentic adventure . . . Hitchens is bravely, or at least defiantly, candid about qualities his detractors might use to undermine or perhaps explain his love of war and his rabid hatred for religious people
The New York Observer
Gregg LaGambina
At its heart, Hitch-22 is a celebration of literature and a denunciation of idleness. Hitchens is inarguably a man of action: He pursues history as it happens . . . eloquent, enlightening, and entertaining.
The Onion's AV Club
Mark Rahner
Christopher Hitchens' memoir has the same nerve and frankness that first made me admire him . . . His perspective on becoming an American citizen is refreshing at a time when it's easy to become jaded about our role in the world.
The Seattle Times
Douglas Brinkley
With the possible exception of Tom Wolfe and Maureen Dowd's, Christopher Hitchens' marvelous byline is the most archly kinetic in current-day American letters. Every article, review and essay has the romantic whiff of a durable vintage. You might disagree with him. You might question his motives. But not for a second will you ever be bored . . . goes on to call the memoir cunning, illuminating . . . Being able to shape-change, shed skins, sit on the hillside overlooking suburbia like a coyote, Hitchens represents a dying breed of public intellectual whose voice matters precisely because it can't be easily pigeonholed or ignored.
The Los Angeles Times
Michael Washbum
One of the most engaging, exciting books I've read in years . . . The writing is lovely - introduction aside, which threatens early onset pretentia - Hitchens' cold-eyed evaluation of his younger self feels honest. To be sure, "Hitch 22" is often a chronicle of Hitchens' best efforts. He teaches us that cheap booze is false economy'' and reveals a youth engaged in boarding school homosexuality. But thankfully, Hitchens' efforts, friends, and close calls are rendered wonderfully in this strange book. Ultimately, "Hitch 22" is about cultivating and maintaining one's intellectual integrity. As Hitchens writes, [I]t is always how people think that counts for much more than what they think.''. . . But memoir generates pleasure through voice and sensibility, not through comprehensiveness. Nobody ever said self-awareness must lead to self-revelation, and even if you don't like what Hitchens thinks, it's easy to admire how he thinks.
The Boston Globe
Michael C. Moynihan
Reading Hitch-22, his fascinating memoir of a career in combat journalism (both literal and figurative), one gets a sense that those looking for that tragic moment when a reliable man of the left became a fellow traveler of the right are asking the wrong question. On the big political issues that have long animated him-Middle Eastern politics, the dangers of religious messianism-his views have been surprisingly constant.
Reason Magazine
Nick Owchar
"The essays in 'Arguably' remind us of other dimensions to this singular writer and thinker that are sometimes overshadowed by the range of his political commentary. Though there are plenty of essays on politics to be found here, the book also treats us to other arrows in Hitchens' proverbial quiver, including his bracing, exhilarating approach to important literary figures...Its value is clear and needs no justification. And since his diagnosis of esophageal cancer last year, opportunities to hear him, understandably, have been fewer. Which is another thing 'Arguably' inadvertently addresses - for in reading this collection of his thoughts, immersing yourself in the particular turns of phrase and associations of Hitchens' wit, you suddenly realize something else: You're hearing his voice again."
Douglas Brinkley - The Los Angeles Times
"With the possible exception of Tom Wolfe and Maureen Dowd's, Christopher Hitchens' marvelous byline is the most archly kinetic in current-day American letters. Every article, review and essay has the romantic whiff of a durable vintage. You might disagree with him. You might question his motives. But not for a second will you ever be bored . . . goes on to call the memoir cunning, illuminating . . . Being able to shape-change, shed skins, sit on the hillside overlooking suburbia like a coyote, Hitchens represents a dying breed of public intellectual whose voice matters precisely because it can't be easily pigeonholed or ignored."
Michael C. Moynihan - Reason Magazine
"Reading Hitch-22, his fascinating memoir of a career in combat journalism (both literal and figurative), one gets a sense that those looking for that tragic moment when a reliable man of the left became a fellow traveler of the right are asking the wrong question. On the big political issues that have long animated him-Middle Eastern politics, the dangers of religious messianism-his views have been surprisingly constant."
Mark Rahner - The Seattle Times
Christopher Hitchens' memoir has the same nerve and frankness that first made me admire him . . . His perspective on becoming an American citizen is refreshing at a time when it's easy to become jaded about our role in the world.
Bill Cusamano - Nicola's Books
"The most erudite and astute political and social commentator of this era has written a memoir that not only give the reader a view of the man behind the words but also a perceptive look at society over the past decades. Hitchens fascinates with the life he has lived and observed and, as always, relates his story with precision and consideration."
Drew Toal - Time Out New York
"Hitch is as Hitch does, and he's not apologizing to anyone."
Lee Seigel - The New York Observer
"a fascinating, absorbing book: the rare contemporary memoir that is the record of a life of true accomplishment and authentic adventure . . . Hitchens is bravely, or at least defiantly, candid about qualities his detractors might use to undermine or perhaps explain his love of war and his rabid hatred for religious people"
Kyle Smith - People Magazine
"Whether he's dodging bullets in Sarajevo, dissing Bill Clinton, (with whom he says he shared a girlfriend at Oxford) or explaining his switch from leftist to Iraq war supporter, this foreign correspondent, pundit, and bon vivant makes for an enlightening companion. Give HITCH-22 an 11 out of 10 for smarts, then double it for entertainment value."
Gregg LaGambina - The Onion's AV Club
"At its heart, Hitch-22 is a celebration of literature and a denunciation of idleness. "Hitchens is inarguably a man of action: He pursues history as it happens . . . eloquent, enlightening, and entertaining."
Dwight Garner - The New York Times
"Hitch-22 is among the loveliest paeans to the dearness of one's friends . . . I've ever read. The business and pleasure sides of Mr. Hitchens's personality can make him seem, whether you agree with him or not, among the most purely alive people on the planet."
Mark Oppenheimer - The New Haven Review
"[D]electable, sassy fun . . . this book is intelligent and humane . . . Hitch-22 reminded me why I love the author of The Missionary Position, his fervent slapping of Mother Teresa, and his book about the war crimes of Henry Kissinger. Hitchens takes no prisoners, not even himself."
Ed Luce - The Financial Times
"Few writers can match his cerebral pyrotechnics. Fewer still can emulate his punch as an intellectual character assassin. It is hard not to admire the sheer virtuosity of his prose ... With Hitchens one simply goes along for the ride. The destination hardly matters."
Liz Smith - wowOwow.com
"[H]e has so many great quotes and quotables . . . that one cannot read his latest masterpiece for having to stop, find a pencil and page stickers in order to underline and signify his many remarks, each greater than the other."
Ariel Gonzales - The Miami Herald
"After reading Hitch-22, the only thing you can be sure of is that this flawed knight will not breathe contentedly unless he has a dragon to slay."
Jeff Simon - Buffalo News
"[An] extraordinary memoir by a truly astonishing figure of our literary age . . . This is among the most awaited books of the season, and while it confounds, misleads, exasperates and, on occasion, even bores, it also entertains to an almost shocking degree and illuminates almost as much. I laughed out loud - raucously and continuously - reading this book."
Alexandra Alter - The Wall Street Journal
" ... a complex portrait of a public intellectual."
Diana McLellan - The Washington Post
"... a fat and juicy memoir of a fat and juicy life."
From the Publisher
"Anyone who occasionally opens one of our more serious periodicals has learned that the byline of Christopher Hitchens is an opportunity to be delighted or maddened-possibly both-but in any case not to be missed....His range is extraordinary, both in breadth and altitude. He is as self-confident on the politics of Lebanon as on the ontology of the Harry Potter books....I still find Hitchens one of the most stimulating thinkers and entertaining we have, even when-perhaps especially when-he provokes."—Bill Keller, New York Times Book Review"

The essays in 'Arguably' remind us of other dimensions to this singular writer and thinker that are sometimes overshadowed by the range of his political commentary. Though there are plenty of essays on politics to be found here, the book also treats us to other arrows in Hitchens' proverbial quiver, including his bracing, exhilarating approach to important literary figures...Its value is clear and needs no justification. And since his diagnosis of esophageal cancer last year, opportunities to hear him, understandably, have been fewer. Which is another thing 'Arguably' inadvertently addresses - for in reading this collection of his thoughts, immersing yourself in the particular turns of phrase and associations of Hitchens' wit, you suddenly realize something else: You're hearing his voice again."—Nick Owchar, Los Angeles Times"

Christopher Hitchens's selected essays are Arguably (Twelve) his finest to date."—Vanity Fair"

One reads him [Hitchens] despite his reputation as someone who wants to drink, argue, and tear the ornaments off the tree, because he is, first and last, a writer, an always exciting, often exacting, furious polemicist. This fact, the most salient thing about him, often gets neglected in the public jousting. Arguably, Hitchens's new collection, forcefully proves this point. Consisting of three kinds of writing - literary journalism, political commentary, and cultural complaint - Arguably offers a panoramic if somewhat jaundiced view of the last decade or so of cultural and political history."—The Boston Globe"

Opinions are to Christopher Hitchens what oil is to Saudi Arabia. This collection, featuring his liveliest, funniest and most infamous essays....There is a time for the balanced, even-handed and sober approach - but why bother with any of that when you could be reading someone as provocative and impish as Hitchens?"—The New York Post

Library Journal
The more than 100 previously published commentaries and book reviews—1999 to the present—by this notable columnist, critic, and best-selling author (God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything) are serious, humorous, and, above all, thought-provoking. Topics range from the political situation in Afghanistan, Iran, and Tunisia to literary criticism of the works of John Updike, J.K. Rowling, and Stieg Larsson. The essay "Why Women Aren't Funny" contemplates why some women, who have the whole world of men at their feet, put childbirth higher and wit and intelligence lower on their scale of womanhood's enduring qualities. This leads to an essay on diaper-changing stations in men's restrooms. Recommended for shrewd readers and writers who enjoy keeping up with today's lively intellectual arguments, to which Hitchens has contributed so much. [See Prepub Alert, 3/14/11.]—Joyce Sparrow, Kenneth City, FL

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781455506781
Publisher:
Grand Central Publishing
Publication date:
09/01/2011
Sold by:
Hachette Digital, Inc.
Format:
NOOK Book
Sales rank:
217,464
File size:
1 MB

Read an Excerpt

Gods of Our Fathers: The United
States of Enlightenment
 
Why should we care what the Founding Fathers believed, or did not believe, about religion? They went to such great trouble to insulate faith from politics, and took such care to keep their own convictions private, that it would scarcely matter if it could now be proved that, say, George Washington was a secret Baptist. The ancestor of the American Revolution was the English Revolution of the 1640s, whose leaders and spokesmen were certainly Protestant fundamentalists, but that did not bind the Framers and cannot be said to bind us, either. Indeed, the established Protestant church in Britain was one of the models which we can be quite sure the signatories of 1776 were determined to avoid emulating.
 
Moreover, the eighteenth-century scholars and gentlemen who gave us the U.S. Constitution were in a relative state of innocence respecting knowledge of the cosmos, the Earth, and the psyche, of the sort that has revolutionized the modern argument over faith. Charles Darwin was born in Thomas Jefferson’s lifetime (on the very same day as Abraham Lincoln, as it happens), but Jefferson’s guesses about the fossils found in Virginia were to Darwinism what alchemy is to chemistry. And the insights of Einstein and Freud lay over a still more distant horizon. The furthest that most skeptics could go was in the direction of an indeterminate deism, which accepted that the natural order seemed to require a designer but did not necessitate the belief that the said designer actually intervened in human affairs. Invocations such as “nature’s god” were partly intended to hedge this bet, while avoiding giving offense to the pious. Even Thomas Paine, the most explicitly anti-Christian of the lot, wrote The Age of Reason as a defense of god from those who traduced him in man-made screeds like the Bible.
 
Considering these limitations, it is quite astonishing how irreligious the Founders actually were. You might not easily guess, for example, who was the author of the following words:
 
Oh! Lord! Do you think that a Protestant Popedom is annihilated in America? Do you recollect, or have you ever attended to the ecclesiastical Strifes in Maryland Pensilvania [sic], New York, and every part of New England? What a mercy it is that these People cannot whip and crop, and pillory and roast, as yet in the U.S.! If they could they would. . . . There is a germ of religion in human nature so strong that whenever an order of men can persuade the people by flattery or terror that they have salvation at their disposal, there can be no end to fraud, violence, or usurpation.
 
That was John Adams, in relatively mild form. He was also to point out, though without too much optimism, the secret weapon that secularists had at their disposal—namely the profusion of different religious factions:
 
The multitude and diversity of them, You will say, is our Security against them all. God grant it. But if We consider that the Presbyterians and Methodists are far the most numerous and the most likely to unite; let a George Whitefield arise, with a military cast, like Mahomet, or Loyola, and what will become of all the other Sects who can never unite?
 
George Whitefield was the charismatic preacher who is so superbly mocked in Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography. Of Franklin it seems almost certainly right to say that he was an atheist (Jerry Weinberger’s excellent recent study Benjamin Franklin Unmasked being the best reference here), but the master tacticians of church-state separation, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, were somewhat more opaque about their beliefs. In passing the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom—the basis of the later First Amendment—they brilliantly exploited the fear that each Christian sect had of persecution by the others. It was easier to get the squabbling factions to agree on no tithes than it would have been to get them to agree on tithes that might also benefit their doctrinal rivals. In his famous “wall of separation” letter, assuring the Baptists of Danbury, Connecticut, of their freedom from persecution, Jefferson was responding to the expressed fear of this little community that they would be oppressed by—the Congregationalists of Connecticut.
 
This same divide-and-rule tactic may have won him the election of 1800 that made him president in the first place. In the face of a hysterical Federalist campaign to blacken Jefferson as an infidel, the Voltaire of Monticello appealed directly to those who feared the arrogance of the Presbyterians. Adams himself thought that this had done the trick.
 
“With the Baptists, Quakers, Methodists, and Moravians,” he wrote, “as well as the Dutch and German Lutherans and Calvinists, it had an immense effect, and turned them in such numbers as decided the election. They said, let us have an Atheist or Deist or any thing rather than an establishment of Presbyterianism.”
 
The essential point—that a religiously neutral state is the chief guarantee of religious pluralism—is the one that some of today’s would-be theocrats are determined to miss. Brooke Allen misses no chance to rub it in, sometimes rather heavily stressing contemporary “faith-based” analogies. She is especially interesting on the extent to which the Founders felt obliged to keep their doubts on religion to themselves. Madison, for example, did not find himself able, during the War of 1812, to refuse demands for a national day of prayer and fasting. But he confided his own reservations to his private papers, published as “Detached Memoranda” only in 1946. It was in those pages, too, that he expressed the view that to have chaplains opening Congress, or chaplains in the armed forces, was unconstitutional.


From the Hardcover edition.

Meet the Author

Christopher Hitchens, a contributing editor to Vanity Fair, Slate, and The Atlantic, is the author of numerous books, including works on Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, and George Orwell. He is also the author of the international bestsellers god Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything and Hitch-22: A Memoir.

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Arguably 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 30 reviews.
FesteWM More than 1 year ago
After discovering Christopher Hitchens in Vanity Fair several years ago I began reading his tirades against God and Mother Theresa with never ending fascination. With his recent death we have lost our greatest BS detecter, who was ever ready to debate with a new perspective on our most common assumptions. "Arguably" is a fine collection and would be an excellent introduction to anyone interested in discovering one of our outstanding writers and thinkers. Miss you Christopher!
EnlightenedReader More than 1 year ago
The man was a genius and we have lost a one of the best informed thinker and debater of our time.
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