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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
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.
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31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on 27 May 1999
Growing up in the 70s and 80s, I naturally learned a contempt for journalism as it is currently practiced. The great problem with journalists today, seems to me, is not their slavish conformity, their scandal-mongering, or even their sales-and-marketing obsession with the bottom line. It is their LACK OF IDEAS. They have little or no training in logic, history, aesthetics, or any of the other arts that are necessary if one is to continually shed light on the present.
Christopher Hitchens, by contrast, has all of these things. I bought this book three years ago and have read it through more times than I can remember. It makes intelligible sense of almost every major event that occurred during the late 80s and early 90s. To boot, it is witty and entertaining. If you feel suffocated by the evening news, NPR, the New York Times, and other demographically-tailored drivel, buy this book and everything else Hitchens has published.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
An excellent collection. A reminder of why, no matter how he embraced the neo-cons following 9-11, Hitchens should be remembered as one of the greatest left-wing muck-racking journalists ever. The breadth of knowledge, the eye for an original angle, and most of all, the merciless wit, establishes this collection as the benchmark of political journalism. Truly the best of the best.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 15 October 2013
Two books any politico or connoisseur of English prose style must have are this and 'Prepared for the Worst' where Hitchens deploys his formidable intellect and brilliant, matchless prose style on all topics, taking in literature (I am glad to report) and culture, not merely politics; he is a gifted literary critic and taught at the New School. I realise he is now a controversial figure and a bellwether; see how his critics resort to what might be called adjectival criticism, or name-calling. He doesn't, he argues - clue is in the title, just as Zero's is in his name - making the poverty of those who can call him 'a popinjay' quite plain (and always a bit rich coming from Gorgeous George. Indeed the well named 'Zero' might just BE Mr Galloway, friend of dictators). Better try this book for yourself: you will be entertained as he demolishes Paul Johnson with a perfect pincer, informed as he writes of the Balkans and even if you don't agree, unlike many critics he DOES argue rather than merely assert. By all means argue back, but please, get beyond cheap shots, ye critics, since it shows you either naked or too ashamed to make your own case and resorting to 'playing the man' which is a very poor tactic. And it's boring too. (Still in a world where Chomsky is regularly voted Top Intellectual, I shouldn't be surprised).
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on 16 January 2015
Clarity, balance, relevance and intelligence over so much material and eras is a signpost of rare journalistic genius.
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on 7 September 2014
Another humanist read
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0 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on 18 November 2012
Although the product description says that Hitchens displays common sense, this is not the case. Even before his conversion to neo-conservatism and warmongering he was always willing to distort and outright lie if it supported his agenda. He can't be taken seriously on anything.
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