by Christopher Hitchens


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"All first-rate criticism first defines what we are confronting," the late, great jazz critic Whitney Balliett once wrote. By that measure, the essays of Christopher Hitchens are in the first tier. For nearly four decades, Hitchens has been telling us, in pitch-perfect prose, what we confront when we grapple with first principles-the principles of reason and tolerance and skepticism that define and inform the foundations of our civilization-principles that, to endure, must be defended anew by every generation.

"A short list of the greatest living conversationalists in English," said The Economist, "would probably have to include Christopher Hitchens, Sir Patrick Leigh-Fermor, and Sir Tom Stoppard. Great brilliance, fantastic powers of recall, and quick wit are clearly valuable in sustaining conversation at these cosmic levels. Charm may be helpful, too." Hitchens-who staunchly declines all offers of knighthood-hereby invites you to take a seat at a democratic conversation, to be engaged, and to be reasoned with. His knowledge is formidable, an encyclopedic treasure, and yet one has the feeling, reading him, of hearing a person thinking out loud, following the inexorable logic of his thought, wherever it might lead, unafraid to expose fraudulence, denounce injustice, and excoriate hypocrisy. Legions of readers, admirers and detractors alike, have learned to read Hitchens with something approaching awe at his felicity of language, the oxygen in every sentence, the enviable wit and his readiness, even eagerness, to fight a foe or mount the ramparts.

Here, he supplies fresh perceptions of such figures as varied as Charles Dickens, Karl Marx, Rebecca West, George Orwell, J.G. Ballard, and Philip Larkin are matched in brilliance by his pungent discussions and intrepid observations, gathered from a lifetime of traveling and reporting from such destinations as Iran, China, and Pakistan.

Hitchens's directness, elegance, lightly carried erudition, critical and psychological insight, humor, and sympathy-applied as they are here to a dazzling variety of subjects-all set a standard for the essayist that has rarely been matched in our time. What emerges from this indispensable volume is an intellectual self-portrait of a writer with an exemplary steadiness of purpose and a love affair with the delights and seductions of the English language, a man anchored in a profound and humane vision of the human longing for reason and justice.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781455502783
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication date: 09/04/2012
Pages: 816
Sales rank: 109,633
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.50(d)

About the Author

Christopher Hitchens was a contributing editor to Vanity Fair, Slate, and the Atlantic, and the author of numerous books, including works on Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, and George Orwell. He also wrote the international bestsellers god Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, Hitch-22: A Memoir, and Arguably. He died in December 2011.

Table of Contents

Introduction xv

All American

Gods of Our Fathers: The United States of Enlightenment 3

The Private Jefferson 8

Jefferson Versus the Muslim Pirates 12

Benjamin Franklin: Free and Easy 21

John Brown: The Man Who Ended Slavery 28

Abraham Lincoln: Misery's Child 34

Mark Twain: American Radical 40

Upton Sinclair: A Capitalist Primer 47

JFK: In Sickness and by Stealth 54

Saul Bellow: The Great Assimilator 62

Vladimir Nabokov: Hurricane Lolita 70

John Updike, Part One: No Way 78

John Updike, Part Two: Mr. Geniality 85

Vidal Loco 89

America the Banana Republic 94

An Anglosphere Future 99

Political Animals 108

Old Enough to Die 117

In Defense of Foxhole Atheists 124

In Search of the Washington Novel 131

Eclectic Affinities

Isaac Newton: Flaws of Gravity 139

The Men Who Made England: Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall 146

Edmund Burke: Reactionary Prophet 152

Samuel Johnson: Demons and Dictionaries 165

Gustave Flaubert: I'm with Stupide 171

The Dark Side of Dickens 175

Marx's Journalism: The Grub Street Years 180

Rebecca West: Things Worth Fighting For 191

Ezra Pound: A Revolutionary Simpleton 222

On Animal Farm 228

Jessica Mitford's Poison Pen 237

W. Somerset Maugham: Poor Old Willie 242

Evelyn Waugh: The Permanent Adolescent 250

P. G. Wodehouse: The Honorable Schoolboy 265

Anthony Powell: An Omnivorous Curiosity 276

John Buchan: Spy Thrillers Father 290

Graham Greene: I'll Be Damned 297

Death from a Salesman: Graham Greene's Bottled Ontology 308

Loving Philip Larkin 323

Stephen Spender: A Nice Bloody Fool 332

Edward Upward: The Captive Mind 340

C. L. R. James: Mid Off Not Right On 347

J. G. Ballard: The Catastrophist 353

Fraser's Flashman: Scoundrel Time 358

Fleet Street's Finest: From Waugh to Frayn 365

Saki: Where the Wild Things Are 375

Harry Potter: The Boy Who Lived 380

Amusements, Annoyances, and Disappointments

Why Women Aren't Funny 389

Stieg Larsson: The Author Who Played with Fire 397

As American as Apple Pie 403

So Many Men's Rooms, So Little Time 411

The New Commandments 414

In Your Face 423

Wine Drinkers of the World, Unite 426

Charles, Prince of Piffle 429

Offshore Accounts

Afghanistan's Dangerous Bet 435

First, Silence the Whistle-Blower 445

Believe Me, It's Torture 448

Iran's Waiting Game 455

Long Live Democratic Seismology 467

Benazir Bhutto: Daughter of Destiny 471

From Abbottabad to Worse 474

The Perils of Partition 480

Algeria: A French Quarrel 493

The Case of Orientalism 498

Edward Said: Where the Twain Should Have Met 504

The Swastika and the Cedar 513

Holiday in Iraq 519

Tunisia: At the Desert's Edge 526

What Happened to the Suicide Bombers or Jerusalem? 532

Childhood's End: An African Nightmare 535

The Vietnam Syndrome 541

Once Upon a Time in Germany 548

Worse Than Nineteen Eighty-four 553

North Korea: A Nation of Racist Dwarves 556

The Eighteenth Brumaire of the Castro Dynasty 559

Hugo Boss 563

Is the Euro Doomed? 566

Overstating Jewish Power 569

The Case for Humanitarian Intervention 573

Legacies of Totalitarianism

Victor Serge: Pictures from an Inquisition 585

Andre Malraux: One Man's Fate 595

Arthur Koestler: The Zealot 602

Isabel Allende: Chile Redux 607

The Persian Version 617

Martin Amis: Lightness at Midnight 625

Imagining Hitler 640

Victor Klemperer: Survivor 652

A War Worth Fighting 661

Just Give Peace a Chance? 669

W G. Sebald: Requiem for Germany 673

Words' Worth

When the King Saved God 687

Let Them Eat Pork Rinds 697

Stand Up for Denmark! 704

Eschew the Taboo 709

She's No Fundamentalist 712

Burned Out 716

Easter Charade 719

Don't Mince Words 722

History and Mystery 726

Words Matter 730

This Was Not Looting 733

This Other L-Word 736

The You Decade 739

Suck It Up 742

A Very, Very Dirty Word 745

Prisoner of Shelves 748

Acknowledgments 751

Index 753

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