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Paine tells us much about Hitchens
on 20 July 2010
Hitchens turns a great phrase. He throws himself into his subject and you get the impression that that could be anything. Whatever's on his mind will find it's way into Vanity Fair one day, into Newsweek the next, and nearly everything he says will be broadcast on YouTube within a day or two. He is a fascinating writer and polemicist and - you sense even more so than Jefferson or even Orwell - Thomas Paine appears to be his great inspiration. An Englishman crosses the pond in search of revolution and enlightenment. Makes friends, makes enemies. Witnesses great things. Writes about them. Always takes a side. But in light of Hitchens' changes of opinion - or at least perspective - over the last decade or so, you sense he longs for the days of Paine, when a man could change his mind and so change his side. The wonderful illustration of Paine's relationship with Burke gives the reader a sense not only of the development of western ideologies in the early modern era, but of what it's like to be Christopher Htchens. When friends become enemies this is what it's like - and your enemies define you as much as your friends. Hitchens is not a post-structuralist. He does not believe authors to be dead. For him, Thomas Paine is alive and so this biography breathes and pulses throughout its 140-or-so pages. Definately worth a shot!