When he is not being mean and when he is not happy, he can write as well as George Orwell. His witnessing an execution by lethal injection of a man who was suffering from post-Vietnam stress disorder makes for a brilliant, chilling piece of work. ''The medical butchery of a helpless and demented loser, the descendant of slaves and a discarded former legionary of the Empire, made neither society nor any individual safer. It canceled no moral debt. It was a creepy, furtive and shameful affair, in which the participants could not decently show their faces or quite meet one another's eye.'' His essay on the nonteaching of history in the United States, where his own children cannot ''tell Thomas Jefferson from Thomas the Tank Engine,'' is also thoughtful and convincing.
The New York Times
Branded an apostate by the left for his post-9/11 embrace of the U.S.'s war on terror, former Nation columnist Hitchens reprints some of the offending pieces, along with lighter fare. The title names the book's three sections. "Love" turns out to be "of literature"; displaying an eclectic range, Hitchens analyzes the new English translations of Marcel Proust as perceptively as he attacks Christopher Ricks's Dylan's Vision of Sin, among other works. When he shifts to "Poverty," Hitchens's caustic intolerance for the hypocrisy he sees in public figures comes to the fore. Some objects of his scorn are familiar-Mother Teresa, Bill Clinton-but he also finds new targets ranging from Martha Stewart to the Dalai Lama and Mel Gibson, with special opprobrium for Michael Moore, whose Fahrenheit 9/11 is dubbed "a sinister exercise in moral frivolity." The "War" material more fully documents Hitchens's break with the left and finds him passionately arguing against citing U.S. foreign policy, past or present, to rationalize terrorism. In other essays throughout the collection, from a nostalgic account of a drive along historic Route 66 to fond memories of the WTC towers, readers may be surprised to see the master of cynicism engaging in open sentimentality. Even when Hitchens isn't quite what one anticipates, however, he's as sharp a writer as one has come to expect. (Jan.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
"An antique saying has it that a man's life is incomplete unless or until he has tasted love, poverty, and war." So begins the introduction to this latest book from contrarian Hitchens (A Long Short War: The Postponed Liberation of Iraq), which gathers a decade's worth of essays, articles, and columns from such magazines as the Nation and Vanity Fair. "Love," the book's opening section, contains essays on the beauty and timelessness of literature. Simultaneously critical and reverential, Hitchens speaks of many notable writers, including Byron, Joyce, Borges, and Huxley. In "Poverty," he reflects on his relationship to, and hatred of, the poverty of ideas and political hypocrisy found in the world, including terrorism, religious extremism, and capital punishment. "War" includes Hitchens's passionate and intense essays on the aftermath of 9/11, the war in Iraq, and the conflicts in Afghanistan, the Balkans, and Kurdish Iraq. Whether writing about literature, religion, or foreign policy, Hitchens is not easily categorized as a predictable member of the Left or the Right, so his collection should appeal to all those who call themselves political junkies. Recommended for all public and academic libraries with journalism collections.-Katherine E. Merrill, SUNY at Geneseo Lib. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
A nicely provocative, if disparate mix of field notes, book reviews, essays, and appreciations. "An antique saying has it that a man's life is incomplete unless or until he has tasted love, poverty, and war," the author explains of his title. Polemicist Hitchens (Why Orwell Matters, 2002, etc.) admits to having been fortunate in love, hungry but never starved, and farther away from dangerous action than many journalistic colleagues. Tying together these various pieces from The Atlantic Monthly, The Times Literary Supplement, and other journals is the Orwellian-in the good sense of the word-insistence on the need for writers to stand up and speak against the received wisdoms of left and right alike. Hitchens announces, for instance, a fierce and nuanced patriotism in the wake of 9/11. "One has to be capable of knowing when something is worth fighting for," he insists. "One has to be capable of knowing an enemy when one sees one." There's nothing knee-jerk about his newfound positions. A former but unrepentant socialist, he attacks with equal attentiveness Noam Chomsky on the far left, David Irving on the far right, and a host of unfortunates who lie somewhere in between but are not sufficiently committed to ideas to gain his sympathy. At turns he writes about such heady matters as the historical revisionism now surrounding Winston Churchill (who, Hitchens ventures, made it possible for the US to be a global superpower); the political paradoxes that pepper the writings of Rudyard Kipling; the willful inaccuracies of Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11; the mediocrity of contemporary politics, publishing, and media; the hamburgers of Middle America; and the sights and sounds of such uncongenialplaces as Pyongyang, Podgorica, and Baghdad, to say nothing of such uncongenial people as Mel Gibson and Osama bin Laden. A well-turned collection with scarcely a false note. A pleasure for Hitchens's many fans, and certainly no comfort for his enemies. Agent: Jay Mandel/William Morris