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Arguably – Christopher Hitchens

14 Aug

AnotherHitchSlapChristopher Hitchens (1949-2011) was a matchless writer, debater and humanist. Throughout his life he shone the light of reason and truth into the eyes of charlatans and hucksters, exposing falsehood and decrying hypocrisy wherever he found it. With his passing, the world has lost a great soul, the written word one of its finest advocates and those who stand for freedom everywhere have lost one of their clearest voices.

Arguably collects Hitchens’ writing on politics, literature and religion when he was at the zenith of his career; it is the indispensable companion to the finest English essayist since Orwell.

The joys of learning about scintillating new books, of stories both fact and fiction is tempered by the sheer amount and scope of the eclectic selection already on offer.  The never-ending list of books I need to read has grown by around fifty books since reading this tome but on the other hand I will never be short of a quality read..

It turns out, if this book is anything to go by, that I am distinctly under read, despite my best efforts to the contrary.  I shall not let that soul-destroying revelation ruin my enjoyment of what is a magnificent set of essays, that should be required reading for all those who love to learn and think for themselves.

The finite amount of time that the reader has to tackle such a broad base of literature is at best daunting and at worst obscenely short.  As one who rushes from one to the other in a futile battle to read and process them all; whilst simultaneously collecting even more avenues of enquiry, it occurs that all I can do is horde these treasures (read and unread) to one day pass on to another enquiring mind who will appreciate them.

In these days of ignorant and woefully ill-informed internet commentors and the prevalence of lazy journalism, it is refreshing to not only be able to read a literate and educated voice but also one that knows no fear in not only arguing but backing up said points with actual facts and a clarity that is most welcome.  Being critical is a right afforded to citizens in  many (not enough) countries and it should be used in debate to better ourselves, Hitchens was one man who never shied from giving his opinion and we should be thankful for his body of work.

Language is as important as the defence of the freedom to speak it, the author’s deft use of English and his ability to critique the minutiae of fellow writers in not only an honest and forthright but also stylish way will delight the reader.  Not only will you come away from the book with an expanded vocabulary but also with a new understanding of the topics he chooses to tackle.

Over the course of 752 pages you will come across a rich list of his wide-ranging essays, from detailing his experience of being waterboarded to a review of harry potter and the Deathly Hallows, as well as being a tourist in Kurdistan and North Korea and as a (surprisingly informative) brief history of the blowjob.  Being a book of essays it is probably to be expected that the reader will dip in and out of it but such is the addictive nature if H’s enthusiasm for everything he tackles, I read them greedily one after another not only for the politically relevant and historicity but also the vein of a cutting sense of wit that frequently pops up.

If you have any interest in human rights, politics, history, literature or religion then this book will reward your effort and if none of those things interest you, then firstly hang your head in shame and secondly pick up this book regardless as it will change your mind, educate you and encourage a further exploration into this world we briefly toil through.  To understate this collection would be a transgression on my part, for even if certain ideas are disagreed with they will challenge your perceptions and push you to consider the alternatives.

Hitchens is exactly the reason why free speech should be defended at all costs, controversial, gloriously outspoken and always thought-provoking, he demands respect and gives short shrift to those he found morally objectionable. Upon finishing this book the reader will enjoy a sense of having plenty of new ideas to think on and a mass of new literature into which to delve, your interests will have been expanded and your views challenged in the best of ways, this is a must read.

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44 Comments

Posted by on 14/08/2016 in Essays, History, Journalism, Philosophy, Politics

 

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44 responses to “Arguably – Christopher Hitchens

  1. Theanne aka magnoliamoonpie

    14/08/2016 at 17:51

    In this “Time of Trump” this tome sounds down right delightful. I might actually journey over to the local library and see if they have it to lend. On the other hand I must tell you how pleased I was to see you use the word “shone.” In some blog post or other I uploaded to WP I wanted to use the word shone…and I wasn’t quite sure it was the proper usage so I looked it up…online. I discovered a site that indicated that “shined” was NOW the only proper word to use…saying that to use “shone” was archaic. If that’s the case then I’m archaic…and proud of it 😀 😀 😀

    Liked by 2 people

     
    • Ste J

      14/08/2016 at 18:08

      It would have been a hoot having Hitchens’ opinions on Trump, he would have had a field day! It’s a beast of a tome but there is so much in it that you will find lots of interest. I find shined doesn’t quite sit right, shone in this instance is past tense and if writing about anything not in the immediate I would always plump for that, shined is always present tense to me…I find the modern trend of say dove instead of dived is a weird one as well. This is what it is like to be archaic then, how quickly language evolves, I will stick with shone though and long may we be retro in our language!

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      • Theanne aka magnoliamoonpie

        15/08/2016 at 19:24

        Shined didn’t agree with me either…it just sounds a bit off…and shone has such a nice mellow glow about it. Young stirs things up, old settles things down…there’s a wonderfulness about both. 🙂

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  2. renxkyoko

    14/08/2016 at 18:14

    I’m placing my hand on a stack of Bibles , Ste J, and give an oath that I’m going to read Christopher Hitchens.

    Liked by 2 people

     
    • Ste J

      14/08/2016 at 18:24

      Hitchens would not like that being an anti-theist but the sentiment is appreciated and you will love his no nonsense outlook on everything from politics to history, I’m well excited for you to read it now.

      Liked by 1 person

       
      • renxkyoko

        14/08/2016 at 18:58

        That’s the kind of stuff that I love to read, rather than the philosophical /psychoanalysis/ preachy kind , you know, like the child within you stuff.

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        • Ste J

          14/08/2016 at 19:14

          Rightly or wrongly (probably rightly), I dismiss anything preachy, just give me details, logic and let me make up my own mind.

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  3. Louis Naughtic

    14/08/2016 at 18:41

    Best to just focus subjects that dictate the others. Aristotle’s Ethics and Politics do a good job of outlining human nature. Once you figure out that subject, the rest falls into place.

    Liked by 1 person

     
    • Ste J

      14/08/2016 at 18:53

      No doubting Aristotle wrote some extremely fascinating pieces but leaving aside Hitchens would be to miss out on plenty of insightful and topical essays as well as his deep research into history and literature. His diversity as well as his lack of compromise on the big ideas is a welcome draw.

      Liked by 1 person

       
      • Louis Naughtic

        14/08/2016 at 19:40

        No, I read this very book. My point is merely that most people think knowledge is best acquired by memorizing mountains of detail. Not the case at all, given that the majority of information, even from the greatest minds in history, is irrelevant.

        If you know the basics of mathematics, you can extrapolate on the rest. Same principle.

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  4. shadowoperator

    14/08/2016 at 19:25

    This sounds like your type of book, and just your type of writer, Ste J, one who followed wherever his curiosity led him without losing his sense of direction. I will try to see if “Arguably” is featured on my library websites. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

     
    • Ste J

      15/08/2016 at 13:15

      I am a massive Hitchens fan, I have a lot of time for his writings and debates. He was a massive reader too, he read everything Orwell wrote once a year and through him my book collection has not only grown copiously but also a lot more wide ranging which pleases me greatly. You will not be disappointed if you find it, if you can’t find that one, take your pick of any of his others, Letters to a Young Contrarian was a very good read too.

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  5. Jill Weatherholt

    14/08/2016 at 21:38

    Wow! It sounds as though he covered a little of everything, eh? Nice review, Ste J!

    Liked by 1 person

     
    • Ste J

      15/08/2016 at 12:58

      It’s always good to take wide ranging subjects, I was much intrigued by the American slavery inflicted by Muslim pirates back in the day…all in all it was extremely well written and even more informative.

      Liked by 1 person

       
  6. macjam47

    15/08/2016 at 12:27

    A great review, Steve, but I have to disagree on one point you made. You are anything but under-read.

    Liked by 1 person

     
    • Ste J

      15/08/2016 at 13:01

      That’s what I always tell myself and then I discover new books and subjects and I realise that I am merely ‘getting there’ lol.

      Liked by 1 person

       
  7. Chelsea Brown

    17/08/2016 at 00:48

    This sounds intriguing, I am always up for books that better our education of the world, as well as the written word. A lot to explore.

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    • Ste J

      17/08/2016 at 22:25

      He’s one of my favourite writers, puts a lot of other writers in the shade, he makes me appreciate just how good one can become. Although I for one have a long way to go.

      Liked by 1 person

       
      • Chelsea Brown

        17/08/2016 at 22:41

        At least you have a starting off point, and that is so helpful. I bet I’ll find myself in the same boat when I read his works.

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        • Ste J

          17/08/2016 at 22:44

          He didn’t write fiction though, well nothing I have yet come across but it is something to aim for no matter your field, if not in the style of writing but in the sheer well readness of the chap.

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  8. LuAnn

    17/08/2016 at 23:07

    How timely this review is, as I am in need of a book that will challenge me, make me think. This sounds like it might be the one. Thanks Ste J!

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    • Ste J

      17/08/2016 at 23:10

      It’s rare that my timing is decent so I am happy that I can it right once in a while. The wealth of different topics makes this a great one to bounce around picking and choosing at random…or straight through as I like to do, although I admit I did read his review of Harry Potter 7 first out of curiosity.

      Liked by 1 person

       
  9. clarepooley33

    18/08/2016 at 01:01

    I enjoyed reading your enthusiastic review so much Ste! I still haven’t got round to reading anything by Hitchens yet, though I’ve been meaning to for ages. His anti-theism doesn’t worry me – I am sure in my belief in God – but I am always interested in someone else’s viewpoint as it makes me reconsider my own. A good thing, I believe.

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    • Ste J

      18/08/2016 at 09:01

      Hitchens always enjoyed a good debate because it made him question what he knew, the sources from which his knowledge came and it also was used to shore up his position by testing theories against his beliefs, I like that idea as many people become entrenched in their views unable to accept any alternative ideas.

      There is plenty more than just the religious aspects to this one, in fact there isn’t half as much as can be found on YouTube and it is a refreshing mix of history and politics both obscure and famous (but always remarkable) and book reviews that give me something to aim for!

      Liked by 1 person

       
  10. Gitanjali Singh Cherian

    18/08/2016 at 03:38

    I enjoyed reading that very well written review 🙂 And (as is usually the case) you have added another book to my To-Read list. How am I going to find the time for all these books! 🙂

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    • Ste J

      18/08/2016 at 08:41

      We book readers suffer with a wealth of riches but it is wonderful to go to a bookshop confident that I will find something that I want, that will inspire and grow me. That is a good feeling!

      Liked by 1 person

       
  11. Lucy

    18/08/2016 at 14:21

    It’s one of my vices to watch Hitch videos on Youtube, I do enjoy watching him tear people apart, but occasionally I have a little shout at him for his anti-feminist views. As you may know he believed women should be allowed to work if they wanted but shouldn’t have to, as their innate qualities are suited to being at home, a theory I strongly oppose, except for when I don’t want to go to work and I’d not say no to Hitch paying my rent.

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    • Ste J

      18/08/2016 at 14:40

      He does have rather interesting views, educate and empower women on one hand but then stay at home due to traditional gender roles on the other, if they wish. I spent a whole day watching his videos once, it was a good day but not once did he mention subsidising anyone’s rent, maybe there is a conspiracy there somewhere, probably involving the Catholic church.

      Liked by 1 person

       
  12. Patrisya

    19/08/2016 at 11:37

    Hitchens always motivates me to read. Each time I pick up his book or I watch his debate, my “must read” list is getting longer. That is the greatness of Hitchens- he pushes us to learn and to develop.

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    • Ste J

      21/08/2016 at 17:21

      Yes, your last sentence is perfect, he is the best person to go to when one wishes to learn and I always find something new as well which is great, he should have a day dedicated to him.

      Liked by 1 person

       
  13. angela

    21/08/2016 at 07:44

    What a tome. Hitchens, however, was a brilliant character so I’ve found any essay of his consumed offers a reward of new insight. To read all of that….oy. As I am a contrarian, I will say that I oft disagreed with Hitch even if I agreed… On a different note, apologies for missing so much (I’ve been working too many hours, no WP time) and just saw that you were in the States. Glad you were able to get away! I hope we treated you well ~ a

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    • Ste J

      21/08/2016 at 17:32

      He makes you think that is why Hitchens was great and even disagreeing was more of an alternative to his actual idea on the end result. It’s good to see you around whenever you come round, life gets in the way for a lot of bloggers so I learn to cherish the times when people do stop by.

      Boston was great, everybody wanted to know about Brexit and we just wanted a break lol. It was great fun though and I am looking at trips back that way sometime soonish.

      Liked by 1 person

       
    • Ste J

      21/08/2016 at 17:32

      He makes you think that is why Hitchens was great and even disagreeing was more of an alternative to his actual idea on the end result. It’s good to see you around whenever you come round, life gets in the way for a lot of bloggers so I learn to cherish the times when people do stop by.

      Boston was great, everybody wanted to know about Brexit and we just wanted a break lol. It was great fun though and I am looking at trips back that way sometime soonish.

      Like

       
  14. anna amundsen

    21/08/2016 at 17:56

    Juicy! Definitely something to get my hands on.
    It reminds me of a similarly huge ”The March of Literature” I already have on the list..

    Like

     
    • Ste J

      21/08/2016 at 18:12

      I will be adding that straight after I finish this comment! These big books are what we need to keep us going, I love it an the recommendations that come with it!

      Like

       
  15. Maniparna Sengupta Majumder

    29/08/2016 at 13:40

    A wide range of essays… even the review of the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. A huge book, no doubt, but definitely worth reading. Will watch his videos on YT…

    Like

     
    • Ste J

      29/08/2016 at 17:06

      The man is thought provoking and he inspires me to read and you would think that that was preaching to the converted but I really came away rom the book needing to learn more.

      Liked by 1 person

       

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