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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Hitch-22: A Memoir


I have been aware of Christopher Hitchens for a long time, but it is only in the last few years that I’ve really been much of an admirer of his.  It’s amazing how much “smarter” the man seemed to become as his political views grew closer to my own (for those unsure, this is my lame attempt at a joke) – even his “take no prisoners” debate style seemed less abrasive than before.

Hitch-22 is in some ways more than the book I expected and, in other ways, a bit less than I hoped for when I first picked it up.  On the one hand, Hitchens is frank about many aspects of his personal life, including the family scandal that cost his mother her life when she was killed by her lover in one of those murder-suicide incidents that destroy so many families.  He addresses his own bisexuality, tracing it all the way back to his boarding school days during which homosexual experimentation among the students was commonplace – and admits that he became more of a womanizer after he came to believe that signs of physical aging made him unattractive to men.  On the other hand, however, Hitchens says very little about either of his wives or his children, using them more as props, than anything else, in stories about some of his more famous friends, and enemies in the literary world.

Photo credit to be found here
Most interesting to me is the explanation Hitchens gives for his gradual shift of political views, all the way from being about as far left as one could be in 20th century England to becoming an advocate of the far right viewpoint on American/world politics by the 21st century.  Along the way, Hitchens became friends with some of the most influential political and literary minds of his day; as his politics changed, some of those same people would become his bitter enemies.  Hitchens, never one to pull his punches, tells the reader exactly what he thinks of the politicians, writers, pundits, and personalities he encountered along the way.  While that it definitely a good approach to writing a memoir, many American readers are likely to find themselves a bit befuddled by some of the names and situations Hitchens describes from his earlier life.  Too, these particular chapters constitute some of the most dryly written ones in the book, and it takes determination on the part of the reader to get through them despite the war zone adventures they often describe.

Hitch-22 does, though, reflect the personality of its author, and the book will not disappoint Hitchens fans.  The man’s feisty, confrontational approach to life, one leavened by his rather raunchy and witty take, is there for all to see – and enjoy.  Even taking into account his current fight for survival, few would say that Christopher Hitchens has been cheated by life.  His has been one of the more interesting ones of the 20th century and Hitch-22 proves it.

Rated at: 4.0
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