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How to survive 3 weeks in Canberra.
on 12 April 1999
December 1995 - I have been sent to Australia's national capitol for 3 weeks to undertake testing of some new software for my employer. Any one who has been to Canberra knows that it is like any other purpose built national capitol - some stately buildings, a certain amount of intellectual grandeur about the place but otherwise a giant surburb infected by too much narcotic abuse.
It was in this environment I read this book and it saved my sanity (if not my life). I was loaned a paperback copy by my hostess's housemate after watching Hitchens perform brilliantly as part of a panel discussing Watergate which also included G Gordon Liddy - after sitting through a 5 minute tirade by Liddy, the interviewer (Australia's Kerry O'Brien) said "Christopher Hitchens" to which Hitchens responded as if just woken from sleep with the words "Err yes? Do you want me to plug my book?"
At that point I decided I must read (if not purchase) that book.
And the book - any writer who can work PG Wodehouse into a critique of the Gennifer Flowers phenomenon gets my stamp of approval.
Hitchens's critiques and analysis are taut, energetic and yet also built upon the relaxed auro of the supremely confident without (much) arrogance. And even if he does get a bit smug, it's still highly entertaining and more informative than any comparative writing.
Most impressive (on the "quality" side of things) is the breadth of subjects he covers - all the way from George Eliot (yeah, I know that one's on the blurb) to smokin' 'n' drinkin' via Nixon's mother.
And there are no half-arsed marsupial metaphors as in his piece on Robert Hughes in Vanity Fair.
Buy this book and become a better smart arse.