When I read books I do it to expose myself to new ideas and to challenge the way I think, but with writers today that’s a nearly impossible task. Great thinkers used to be considered those who questioned the orthodoxy of the day to lead the world to a brighter future. Today, there are few that question the given narrative. Rather in the 21st century those in academia, literature and journalism push forth the same agenda and ideology, never venturing far off the path for fear of reprisal.
Enter: Christopher Hitchens.
I suppose I first learned of Hitchens in high school. A couple of my friends were ardent atheists and worshipped Richard Dawkins, and Hitchens seemed to be his partner in crime. Back then I didn’t want to question what I knew; I just wanted to read people who would tell me what I wanted to hear.
Fast forward half a decade and I’m staring at the bright, yellow cover of Arguably.
I flipped through the pages and was intrigued. What interested me about the content of this book was that it contained dozens of his essays that he had written over the years, as opposed to focusing on a single subject. I knew I didn’t agree with this man’s viewpoints, but for some reason I needed to know what he had to say.
Most people know Hitchens as one of the “Four Horseman Of Atheism”, yet his ideologies go much further than his beliefs about God, or a lack thereof. Hitchens views are something that most people couldn’t come up with if even the task of combining arbitrary political and philosophical viewpoints.
As a militant atheist and self-proclaimed Marxist, one would immediately put Hitchens in the liberal camp. Yet, he was a self-described conservative who supported the 2003 Invasion of Iraq, loathes feminism, and worships George Orwell.
As for the book, it’s broken down into 6 categories:
All American: With discussions of the founding fathers, great American leaders, and modern American politics.
Eclectic Affinities: Mostly highlighting famous British historical figures.
Amusements, Annoyances, and Disappointments: An interesting mix of witticisms and polemics.
Offshore Accounts: Foreign Policy.
Legacies of Totalitarianism: Emphasis on the infamous legacies of dictatorships.
Words’ Worth: A mix of interesting essays.
With a book like this it’s hard to give the book an overall positive or negative rating; rather I’d have to give ratings to each individual’s essays. With that said this collection of essays are of the ‘hit or miss’ variety. Not because his writing is ever subpar, but because I could care less about a lot of the topics he discusses.
The latter point is my biggest gripe with this book. I realize that the editors had to choose certain essays to fit the theme of the categories in the book, but after looking through Hitchens’ archives, there were many great pieces that were left out.
If you’re not gung-ho about buying a copy of this book, then I’ll do you a big favor. You see, because Hitchens’ essays were originally published in magazines, these articles still exist on the web. These essays are easily accessible by going to the websites of the magazines he contributed to and then going to his archives. Here’s some of his main works:
Plus these archives have access to even more articles than were published in Arguably.
I will say that Arguably is something that is nice to have around so that you can pull out and reacquaint yourself with his works. And again, it’s super yellow which makes a nice edition to a bookshelf. Even if you don’t want to buy the book, at least give a few of these essays a read to expand your world view a bit and I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.
Click Here here to purchase Arguably on Amazon.