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Hitch-22 by Christopher Hitchens
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Hitch-22 (2010)

by Christopher Hitchens

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Showing 1-5 of 46 (next | show all)
Hitch 22 is more of a survey and opinion of modern history than a memoir. In part this is due to the spectacular public life that Hitchens has led, but it doesn't feel like an account from someone who has led a life at all. For someone who holds passionate and often (though not always) beautifully supported opinions, Hitchens presents his own life in a very detached manner. There is bountiful name dropping of really only public figures. His family of origin is sparsely mentioned, his current wife and children could be missed in a blink, and the mother of two children is omitted. Fair enough, he perhaps intends to maintain privacy, but it is just one symptom of the book's overall sense of detachment. Whether Hitchens discusses pivotal, personal events or prurient events like a visit to a brothel, there is a lack of introspection and inner dialogue. It's almost as though an automaton was designed to live a radical, amazing life and report on it eloquently but without feeling. The only occasion where this didn't entirely hold true is when Hitchens discusses his mother and when he takes a personal interest in the death of a soldier he had influenced. Even in these instances, you only get the mere sense of a depth of emotion. The fact of Hitchens' life is much more enjoyable than its recounting.
( )
  rosechimera | Mar 16, 2018 |
Hitch 22 is more of a survey and opinion of modern history than a memoir. In part this is due to the spectacular public life that Hitchens has led, but it doesn't feel like an account from someone who has led a life at all. For someone who holds passionate and often (though not always) beautifully supported opinions, Hitchens presents his own life in a very detached manner. There is bountiful name dropping of really only public figures. His family of origin is sparsely mentioned, his current wife and children could be missed in a blink, and the mother of two children is omitted. Fair enough, he perhaps intends to maintain privacy, but it is just one symptom of the book's overall sense of detachment. Whether Hitchens discusses pivotal, personal events or prurient events like a visit to a brothel, there is a lack of introspection and inner dialogue. It's almost as though an automaton was designed to live a radical, amazing life and report on it eloquently but without feeling. The only occasion where this didn't entirely hold true is when Hitchens discusses his mother and when he takes a personal interest in the death of a soldier he had influenced. Even in these instances, you only get the mere sense of a depth of emotion. The fact of Hitchens' life is much more enjoyable than its recounting.
( )
  rosechimera | Mar 16, 2018 |
2.5 stars. The best chapter was the one about Iraq. Most everything else was boring and flamboyant. ( )
  weberam2 | Nov 24, 2017 |
A quite incredible memoir, not only because it does much of what a memoir should do but because it does much more besides. Hitchens recognizes as early as page 22 in his life's narrative how often "the private and the political had intersected", and proceeds accordingly. Consequently, alongside raw passages about his mother's death and witty anecdotes from his youth, you also get a wealth of literary allusions and quotations, clear-eyed insights into matters of principle and enduring opinions about politics. He infuses passages with humour without cheapening them, with candidness without sordidness and with emotion without becoming sentimental. He is particularly powerful on the pull of American values and on the Salman Rushdie business, but in truth he is fascinating to read on just about everything, because he is well-read and writes well, and doesn't criticize anything which he hasn't at first endeavoured to research and understand. There is a bracing quality to all of Hitchens' opinions and a wealth to the prose which is undeniable.

If there is one criticism to be made, it is that the political gradually comes to overshadow the personal. Later chapters, fine as they are, could just as easily have come from his collections of essays (indeed, some, like the powerful lines about Mark Daily, have). I remained completely sated by the content but it is remarkable to realize that, after the school and university years where he accounts for his relationship with Martin Amis, there's very little on the development of Hitchens' personal life. This life is, as I have mentioned, deeply connected with the political and so when he details his travels in Mesopotamia and so on, you are still getting interesting personal insights. But even upon finishing the book you have no idea about his wife, Carol, or how they met or learned to live together. She is only mentioned a few times in passing, and it was only by a bit of low-level detective work and dot-connecting that I even know it is his wife who is the 'Carol Blue' in some of the illustrative photographs. His children get slightly more attention (and even then, only one – Alexander – gets an anecdote all to himself), but are still only bit-part players, as is his brother Peter. Maybe Hitchens would consider this to be all dull family-life stuff unworthy of the reader's attention, but it is rather odd for a memoir or autobiography to omit such stuff to such a glaring extent.

That said, Hitch-22 is a fantastic account precisely because you don't want it to end. You want to stay in this man's company, which is the sign of an effective memoir and the best compliment one can pay. You just want him to carry on delivering interesting anecdotes, dropping literary references and balling you out for any intellectual laziness on matters of principle. The man and the book are a perfect storm of humility and ego, calmness and cantankerousness, humour and grave seriousness. There are other raconteurs, other principled men, other intellectuals, other front-line journalists and other engrossing and readable writers, but Hitchens brought all such qualities into a mixture, bound together perhaps by smoke and whisky and raunch, which would be hard for any man to replicate. A real one-off. ( )
  MikeFutcher | Aug 8, 2017 |
I don't agree with some of his politics but his background is fascinating. ( )
  ASKelmore | Jul 9, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 46 (next | show all)
Christopher Hitchens became dazzled by his “friendships” with the rich and powerful and turned into an apologist for war on Iraq. Terry Eagleton reads his new memoir –– and finds a man in conflict with every one of his own instincts.

Oedipus wrecked

The Oedipal children of the establishment have always proved useful to the left. Such ruling-class renegades have the grit, chutzpah, inside knowledge, effortless self-assurance, stylishness, fair conscience and bloody-mindedness of their social background, but can turn these patrician virtues to radical ends. The only trouble is that they tend to revert to type as they grow older, not least when political times are lean. The Paul Foots and Perry Andersons of this world are a rare breed. Men and women who began by bellowing "Out, out, out!" end up humiliating waiters and overrating Evelyn Waugh. Those who, like Christopher Hitchens, detest a cliché turn into one of the dreariest types of them all: the revolutionary hothead who learns how to stop worrying about imperialism and love Paul Wolfowitz.

That Hitchens represents a grievous loss to the left is beyond doubt. He is a superb writer, superior in wit and elegance to his hero George Orwell, and an unstanchably eloquent speaker. He has an insatiable curiosity about the modern world and an encyclopaedic knowledge of it, as well as an unflagging fascination with himself. Through getting to know all the right people, an instinct as inbuilt as his pancreas, he could tell you without missing a beat whom best to consult in Rabat about education policy in the Atlas Mountains. The same instinct leads to chummy lunches with Bill Deedes and Peregrine Worsthorne. In his younger days, he was not averse to dining with repulsive fat cats while giving them a piece of his political mind. Nowadays, one imagines, he just dines with repulsive fat cats. . . .

 
Hitchens acknowledges many people for their help, but interestingly no specific editor for this particular book. This is unfortunate: a good editor might have cut out 100 pages, pruned the moments of self-indulgence, reminded Hitchens that abuse is not equivalent to analysis and asked for a little more introspection. Read Christopher Hitchens, certainly, but not necessarily Hitch-22.
added by Shortride | editThe Monthly, Dennis Altman (May 1, 2010)
 
A generous friend, Mr. Hitchens gives most of his book’s good lines (and there are many, a good deal of them unprintable here) to the people he loves. Those good lines including this one, from Clive James, who began a review of a Leonid Brezhnev memoir this way: “Here is a book so dull that a whirling dervish could read himself to sleep with it.... If it were read in the open air, birds would fall stunned from the sky." Whatever the opposite of that book is, Mr. Hitchens has written it.
 
Our protagonist is a bit of a disembodied brain, highly capable of poignancy but not exactly introspection or, as is welcome in memoirs, overwhelming indiscretion. (Would it be primitive to say that he seems so English in this way, though he’s become an American citizen?) When he shares a tender memory, his preference is to quickly convert it into a larger political observation; for him, politics remains the most crucial sphere of moral and intellectual life.
 
When previously surveying his writerly recycling, I wrote, “I did not compile these examples to suggest that Hitchens has dined out on the same material for decades,” but Hitch-22 made me start to wonder.
 
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Epigraph
The desires of the heart are as crooked as corkscrews,

Not to be born is the best for man;

The second-best is a formal order,

The dance’s pattern; dance while you can.

Dance, dance for the figure is easy,

The tune is catching and will not stop;

Dance till the stars come down from the rafters;

Dance, dance, dance till you drop.

W. H. Auden’s “Death’s Echo.”
Dedication
For James Fenton
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"A map of the world that did not show Utopia," said Oscar Wilde, "would not be worth consulting." I used to adore that phrase, but now reflect more upon the shipwrecks and prison islands to which the quest has lead. p.420
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0446540331, Hardcover)

Over the course of his 60 years, Christopher Hitchens has been a citizen of both the United States and the United Kingdom. He has been both a socialist opposed to the war in Vietnam and a supporter of the U.S. war against Islamic extremism in Iraq. He has been both a foreign correspondent in some of the world's most dangerous places and a legendary bon vivant with an unquenchable thirst for alcohol and literature. He is a fervent atheist, raised as a Christian, by a mother whose Jewish heritage was not revealed to him until her suicide.

In other words, Christopher Hitchens contains multitudes. He sees all sides of an argument. And he believes the personal is political.

This is the story of his life, lived large.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:58 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

"The life story of one of the most admired and controversial public intellectuals of our time"--Provided by publisher.

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