Thursday, July 29, 2010

Christopher Hitchens' "Hitch-22"

I was pleasantly surprised by this book. It was much more enjoyable that I would have expected. In the past I found a lot of Hitchens' writings to be strident and tedious. But I thoroughly enjoyed his "God is Not Great" and I found "Hitch-22" to be an interesting and enjoyable read.

The books is a very honest look at himself. I don't know enough to claim to be assured of its absolute veracity, but he shows a willingness to be critical about all around him as well as himself. He's willing to admit failings and shortcomings. We all have them, but many refuse to admit to them. This peek into his private life makes reading his other writings much more enjoyable. I now have a linchpin by which to grapple with those other writings.

Here are some bits I especially enjoyed:
During the 1992 election I concluded as early as my first visit to New Hampshire that Bill Clinton was hateful in his behavior to women, pathological as a liar, and deeply suspect when it came to money in politics.
Here he takes on Noam Chomsky and the "Left" and its "stance" on 9/11:
Anyway, I didn't have long to wait for my worst fears about the Left to prove correct. Comparing Al Quaeda's use of stolen airplanes with President Clinton's certainly atrocious use of cruise missiles against Sudan three years before (Which were at least ostensibly directed at Al Quaeda targets), Noam Chomsky found the moral balance to be approximately even, with the United States at perhaps a slight disadvantage. He also described the potential civilian casualties of an American counterstroke in Afghanistan as amounting to a "silent genocide."
If you want a tour through the last 50 years, especially sensitive to the key political events of those years, this is a very good book. It covers Hitchens's life experience, his political causes, and his enthusiasms for literature and his literate friends.

I especially enjoyed the chapter near the end of the book where he discovered that his mother was Jewish and had kept that from his children. He then talks about his stance towards Judaism, Israel, and the Palestinians. It is a complicated story, but told honestly. I especially enjoyed how he points out that his friend Edward Said, a Palestinian Christian, was fundamentally dishonest and their relationship soured at the end.

Between this book and "God is Not Great", I feel I now know Christopher Hitchens. I can now forgive must of what I took to be boringly strident political writings. The guy's heart is in the right place even if he is a bit of a fanatic and bore with his politics. He certainly has lived an interesting and exciting and apparently very rich life.

Update 2010aug05: Vanity Fair has an article by Christopher Hitchens about his cancer. It has metastisized from esophogus to lymph and lung. Sad news.

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