Christopher Hitchens’ ‘Arguably: Essays’

From The Salt Lake Tribune:

Christopher%20Hitchens%20at%20Beiteddine Following on the heels of his affecting memoir, Hitch-22 , comes this grand (we hope not final) wrap-up of nearly 800 pages of recent writings, his first essay collection since 2004. All of the author’s virtues, quirks, idees fixes and paradoxes are on ample display. But what comes across most strongly is his reasonableness. He upholds the values of civic society, democracy, women’s rights, tolerance; he opposes ideological fanaticism on the right or the left; and he manifests a worldly acceptance of human flaws. This insistent allowance of impurity especially buttresses his literary criticism. His grasp of modern British literature is sound: He will typically begin by characterizing the artistry of some writer (Evelyn Waugh, Philip Larkin, P.G. Wodehouse, Saki, Graham Greene), candidly discuss his “suspect politics,” such as fascist, anti-Semitic or racist leanings, and end with a balanced assessment. He is at his best when threading his way, appreciatively but honestly, through a complex text he truly admires, such as Rebecca West’s masterpiece, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon.

His admiration for his adopted country, the United States, and its political traditions is more outspoken and unapologetic than many native-born intellectuals would dare allow themselves. He writes with cordial warmth about Jefferson, Franklin, Lincoln and other children of the Enlightenment, and loves, as you would expect, Mark Twain. But his refusal to jump on an anti-American bandwagon does not prevent him from powerfully excoriating the enduring effects of Agent Orange on the Vietnamese. Nor does it deter him from a rather caustic debunking of JFK worship. Hitchens can be quite fun when on the attack, as in his two poison-pen reviews of John Updike, whom he calls “Mr. Geniality.” Reviewing the novel “Terrorist,” he writes: “Indeed, Updike continues to offer, as we have come to expect of him, his grueling homework.” There’s some truth to that, but he’s also being unfair in undervaluing Updike’s temperate gifts, perhaps because Hitchens himself grows so intemperate around the subject of the Middle East.

More here.