13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Inarguably Good
Christopher Hitchens had a mind which is sorely missed. Whether you agreed with what he was saying, or were on the other side of the issue, one had to respect and respond to what Hitchens had to say on the subject. "Arguably" is a collection of his essays (107 in all) put into six sections of the book, and which cover a wide variety of subjects. There are certainly a...
Published 23 months ago by Dave_42
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Keep a dictionary on hand
This is a collection of essays and reviews by Christopher Hitchens, a most interesting (and sometimes hugely entertaining) character. He is sadly no longer with us. I found myself avidly reading some of this stuff, but also skipping huge swathes of it. I used to think my knowledge and use of the English language to be fairly acceptable, but the more I read Hitchens, the...
Published on 22 May 2012 by Lionel Beck
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Inarguably Good,
Christopher Hitchens had a mind which is sorely missed. Whether you agreed with what he was saying, or were on the other side of the issue, one had to respect and respond to what Hitchens had to say on the subject. "Arguably" is a collection of his essays (107 in all) put into six sections of the book, and which cover a wide variety of subjects. There are certainly a few here which are not going to be considered controversial, but the vast majority are Hitchens as he usually was, strongly opinionated on controversial subjects, and always with a significant stack of facts to back his positions; positions which he was not afraid to voice in the bluntest terms. In other words, this is Hitchens at his best (when you agree with him), and at his most difficult (when you don't).
This collection was published originally in September of 2011, with Hitchens writing a brief introduction in late June as he was suffering from oesophageal cancer from which he would pass away six months later at the all too young age of 62. The essays had been published over the course of years in a variety of publications. The subjects dealt with cover a wide range, from religion and politics, to why women aren't funny, and everything in between. The material ranges from columns, to book reviews, to book introductions.
Hitchens was one of the few members of the media who had actually visited the "axis of evil", along with many other places, and this most certainly contributed to his insights on many subjects. Hitchens was not the least bit tentative to express his opinion, but unlike other talking-heads, Hitchens was able to do it and still be credible on a subject. Though certainly liberal on a majority of subjects, Hitchens had no problem blasting Kissinger, then turning around and backing President George W. Bush in the "War on Terror", only to then proceed to ignore the administration's position on water-boarding and calling it what he considered it, "torture". The result is that the reader can trust that the opinion they are reading is sincere, and not simply a position taken to support an ideological ally.
I ended my first paragraph by saying that Hitchens was at his best when you agree with him, but the fact is that if you are open to views different than yours, then often Hitchens is at his best when you disagree with him. He certainly had the ability to infuriate and madden listeners and readers, but he also had the ability to make people understand a different point of view, even when he fails to convince them that he is correct. Christopher Hitchens is a voice which is missed.
86 of 90 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A delight,
This was a Christmas gift I was not expecting. This book has proved a major distraction this Christmas break (I am supposed to be marking a heap of undergraduate assignments). I have much sympathy with Hitchens' concern over the dangers of religion but without necessarily swallowing his final conclusions. He seems to me to be an atheist with much integrity, as well as being a very informed one.
This is book to be dipped into and relished. The subjects included are diverse; There is a brilliant article on Dr Johnson that reignited my enthusiasm for the doctor, as well as some brilliant and erudite articles on American politics and literature (the one on Saul Bellow is especially poignant). Hitchens' writing style grabs your attention; this is a book that is hard to put down. His recent death (which still happened to come as a bit of a shock) is going to prove a tremendous loss to the world of letters.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hitchin' Brilliant,
Hitchens is scintillating and irreverent in this massive volume (750 pages) which is arranged in the following sections:
Writings about the founders of the Republic and Washington (the city). Hitchens, I believe, became a naturalized American but it still jarred to hear this Englishman talk about "our founding fathers". Hitch, your founding father was from Middle England or thereabouts.
The best part of the book for me. Hitch reviews books and authors (Wodehouse, Burke, Waugh, Greene, Saki, Spender, Orwell, Marx, Powell etc) and references so many others that you realise with dismay just how well read he was. This was the part where my debit card suffered and my local bookshops rejoiced.
This and that
Politics. The one about visiting Iran is very revealing. The popular Western newspaper images are not all what happens inside Iran. Some of the essays I remember from Vanity Fair, the magazine for which they were written.
You can see Hitch's leftist background here and appreciate the incredible intellectual force and moral suasion of the Left in days gone by (and Arguably just as relevant in today's world of bailed out bankers and non-tax paying billionaires). Loved the essays on Victor Serge (whose "The Case Of Comrade Tulayev" I well recommend) and on Koestler ("Darkness At Noon" - brilliant) and ... well all the others really.
Sundry stuff including one on the shame of the West in not standing up for Denmark when that country was under attack from the religious terrorists of the you know which religion; the one whose name can't be mentioned in the same breath as the word "fatwa".
44 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A tome to dip into,
This review is from: Arguably: Selected Essays (Paperback)
What a man! He covers such a wide range. I don't expect to read all of this, but have already enjoyed many of the items on literary figures. I learned things about Evelyn Waugh, Somerset Maugham and Philip Larkin. And of course Hitch is so funny. Try this: "If one scans the few and cringe-making attempts to describe man-woman sex in Maugham's fiction, or if one attempts to infer anything of his conjugal relations, one is forced to picture him screwing his courage to the sticking place (or perhaps vice versa)."
There is something for everyone in this capacious compendium, which includes plenty of serious politics and some delightfully scurrilous items about sex.
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly enjoyable..,
This review is from: Arguably (Kindle Edition)
There is something for everyone in this book. It's a collection of essays by the great late Christopher Hitchens...I find myself reading one or two essays everyday (and learning a new fact about something interesting) and so far I have enjoyed every single one of them. The topics range from Harry Potter to Charles Dickens and Politics and etc. You will definitely enjoy reading this book..highly recommended.
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hitchens a Master of His Art,
My belated introduction to the writing of Christopher Hitchens came following his premature death earlier this year. A name I had heard, but never followed up, I was moved to discover more about the man by reading 'Hitch-22', a memoir, mentioned in an obituary in a leading daily newspaper. What a revelation! A master of the art of writing; informed, articulate, controversial, readable in the extreme. Hitchens' prose is masterful. He draws you into the subject of the piece gently, but, firmly at the same time and leaves you the wiser and also very conscious of your own short comings as a writer and general user of the English language. 'Hitch-22' encouraged me to read more from Hitchens, resulting in my purchase of this anthology of essays.
'Arguably' is a big book! Crammed full of Hitchens, I am making impressive progress, simply, because I can't put it down until my arms get so tired from the shear physical effort of holding this colossal volume in a reading position. Hitch, as he was more affectionatly known, is to my mind the modern day George Orwell. His socialism and subsequent disillusionment with the system run a similar parallel to Orwell. Both masters of their art and should be held as true national gems.
I can't praise this anthology more; enjoy it, read it, get angry, feel good, perhaps even cry a little for the sad loss, at far too early an age, of probably one of the greatest essayists our nation has produced.
75 of 88 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars R P Jackson,
The diversity and depth of Hitchens's erudition, his understanding, his perception, is almost intimidating. Yes, his reach does, on occasion, extend beyond his grasp; but never without troubling the air above embers that can illuminate as well as burn. At his best (e.g. 'The Vietnam Syndrome', 'Believe Me, It's Torture', or any one of his masterful reviews) his writing is sublime and his insight invaluable. At his worst, he is simply interesting.
For all the sound and fury that surround his opinions on religion and humanitarian intervention, Hitchens stands as the greatest essayist of our time: Reading this collection one cannot help but feel that once that sound and fury has softened, and perhaps once Hitch has entered that extinction to which we all travel, he may well be thought of as one of the greatest of all time.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hitchens' last title,
This review is from: Arguably (Kindle Edition)
I am still reading this but it is proving an interesting compilation of some of his later literary reviews overlaid with his strong personal opinions. To an extent it is more about him, but he was a polymath and a very fine writer, so there is no harm in that. I feel that I learn something from each essay and I might even get around to reading some of the works he discusses.
15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Arguably Terrific,
I'd love to have been a fly on the wall of a Hitchens ~ Rushdie word game. Likely I'd understand but a few of the brilliant puns, allusions and irony, but this huge collection of essays and book reviews will fill a large void in my literary, political and historical education. And it may be a constant reminder of the man and the mind recently lost to English readers. It is a NY Times Book of the Year an I recommend it to everyone interested in Hitchens and his many discussions of our society.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Tome gentlemen please! (and ladies),
The works of the late Christopher Hitchens come in two kinds. Skinny little essays like "The Missionary Position" and "Mortality" that, without long and fulsome prefaces, would scarcely justify hard covers, and massive collections of essays like those that John Updike used to produce at regular intervals. This is one of the latter that, as Dorothy Parker wrote of Dreiser's "Dawn", is a strain upon many parts, but the worst wear and tear fall on the forearms. Thankfully those lovely people at Hachette have distilled 788 pages into 24 compact discs. Hitchens ushers us through politics, literature, culture, politics and travel with wit, erudition, humour, careful use of words ("in contradistinction, or at any rate, in contrast") and an unshakeable belief in his own opinions ("If I am right, and I am..."). His disparagements are generally both fair and mild, for example "the forgettable American "gay" writer David Leavitt". Every essay has something of value in it, most much more. Hitchens is best on writers and has inspired me to read Benjamin Franklin for myself, reread Wodehouse, and even consider Rowling. I don't agree with him on everything, and his enthusiasm for so much that is American can become wearing. He wears his erudition lightly and employs it to engage his reader. For example, his review of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" entitled "The Boy Who Lived" (as opposed to Peter Pan the boy who never grew up but the reader has to work that out for him or herself) references Oswald Mosley, Ian Fleming and Walter Bagehot in little over five pages. Hitchens is refreshing, thoughtful, and really not very hard work, so lucid is his prose style. Having so much Hitchens in one volume does lead to repetition and this collection would have benefitted from some cropping. Graham Greene's distinction between his novels and his entertainments keeps cropping up, for example. And there is too much of some topics - a review of Rebecca West for example takes up almost a whole disc. Hitchens certainly believes that he is right and has no qualms in saying so, and there is something schoolboyish in some of his attempts to be deliberately transgressive, such as writing about women's humour and about oral sex. Simon Prebble's reading on these discs is unflashy but engaging and has made this collection a cheery and inspiring kitchen companion these last weeks.
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Arguably by Christopher Hitchens