This week saw the publication of Hitch-22
, a memoir by essayist
Christopher Hitchens. Known for his erudition, his militant atheism,
and his unsparing critiques of the figures and ideas that others hold
dear, Hitchens is admired and feared in equal measure on both the left and the right. Critics have found Hitch-22 both absorbing and, at times,
frustrating--not unlike the man himself.
- Could Have Been More Introspective The Economist
laments Hitchens's failure to examine his personal life more closely.
"For what is meant to be a no-holds-barred memoir, the author goes
lightly on some of his failings. Broken ideals get plenty of
self-satisfied scrutiny; broken hearts and marriages rate barely a
mention. The impression left is of a writer frozen in a precocious
teenagery, whose ability to tease and provoke the grown-ups is
entertaining but ultimately tiresome. If Mr Hitchens can stay off the
booze and do some serious thinking, his real autobiography, in 20
years’ time or so, should be a corker."
- Reads Like a Who's Who At the Barnes & Noble Review, Graeme Wood
adds up the name-dropping: "I picked a random ten-page section and
found sixteen luminaries referenced, from Nelson Mandela to Jorge Luis
Borges, called in by Hitchens to raise the narrative's celebrity
quotient." Nonetheless, Wood admits that the memoir "provoked in this reviewer
several out-loud cackles," and concludes that Hitch-22 "is a good book,
if not a serious one. Many memoirists, after all, show themselves to be
- Lay Off the False Modesty! Salon's Allen Barra
rolls his eyes at Hitchens's tic of self-deprecation, which to Barra
rings hollow. At one point, Hitchens draws a parallel between himself
and William Butler Yeats. As Barra tells it: "Hitchens adroitly
dismisses 'any comparison between myself and one of the greatest poets
of the twentieth century' -- except, of course, to point it out to us."
- You've Changed, Man "There is much in the book to enjoy," writes Terry Eagleton
at the New Statesman, but first you have to see past Hitchens's propensity for self-regard. Eagleton praises Hitchens as "a superb writer,
superior in wit and elegance to his hero George Orwell, and an
unstanchably eloquent speaker." Yet if the memoir proves anything, says
Eagleton, it's that Hitchens may have grown too enamored of the
jet-setting lifestyle: "In his younger days, he was not averse to
dining with repulsive fat cats while giving them a piece of his
political mind. Nowadays, one imagines, he just dines with repulsive
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