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  • Edition: Reprint
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 9/4/2012
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

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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.

Author Biography

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 wrote the international bestsellers god Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything and Hitch-22: A Memoir. He died in December 2011.

Table of Contents

Introductionp. xv
All American
Gods of Our Fathers: The United States of Enlightenmentp. 3
The Private Jeffersonp. 8
Jefferson Versus the Muslim Piratesp. 12
Benjamin Franklin: Free and Easyp. 21
John Brown: The Man Who Ended Slaveryp. 28
Abraham Lincoln: Misery's Childp. 34
Mark Twain: American Radicalp. 40
Upton Sinclair: A Capitalist Primerp. 47
JFK: In Sickness and by Stealthp. 54
Saul Bellow: The Great Assimilatorp. 62
Vladimir Nabokov: Hurricane Lolitap. 70
John Updike, Part One: No Wayp. 78
John Updike, Part Two: Mr. Genialityp. 85
Vidal Locop. 89
America the Banana Republicp. 94
An Anglosphere Futurep. 99
Political Animalsp. 108
Old Enough to Diep. 117
In Defense of Foxhole Atheistsp. 124
In Search of the Washington Novelp. 131
Eclectic Affinities
Isaac Newton: Flaws of Gravityp. 139
The Men Who Made England: Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hallp. 146
Edmund Burke: Reactionary Prophetp. 152
Samuel Johnson: Demons and Dictionariesp. 165
Gustave Flaubert: I'm with Stupidep. 171
The Dark Side of Dickensp. 175
Marx's Journalism: The Grub Street Yearsp. 180
Rebecca West: Things Worth Fighting Forp. 191
Ezra Pound: A Revolutionary Simpletonp. 222
On Animal Farmp. 228
Jessica Mitford's Poison Penp. 237
W. Somerset Maugham: Poor Old Williep. 242
Evelyn Waugh: The Permanent Adolescentp. 250
P. G. Wodehouse: The Honorable Schoolboyp. 265
Anthony Powell: An Omnivorous Curiosityp. 276
John Buchan: Spy Thrillers Fatherp. 290
Graham Greene: I'll Be Damnedp. 297
Death from a Salesman: Graham Greene's Bottled Ontologyp. 308
Loving Philip Larkinp. 323
Stephen Spender: A Nice Bloody Foolp. 332
Edward Upward: The Captive Mindp. 340
C. L. R. James: Mid Off Not Right Onp. 347
J. G. Ballard: The Catastrophistp. 353
Fraser's Flashman: Scoundrel Timep. 358
Fleet Street's Finest: From Waugh to Fraynp. 365
Saki: Where the Wild Things Arep. 375
Harry Potter: The Boy Who Livedp. 380
Amusements, Annoyances, and Disappointments
Why Women Aren't Funnyp. 389
Stieg Larsson: The Author Who Played with Firep. 397
As American as Apple Piep. 403
So Many Men's Rooms, So Little Timep. 411
The New Commandmentsp. 414
In Your Facep. 423
Wine Drinkers of the World, Unitep. 426
Charles, Prince of Pifflep. 429
Offshore Accounts
Afghanistan's Dangerous Betp. 435
First, Silence the Whistle-Blowerp. 445
Believe Me, It's Torturep. 448
Iran's Waiting Gamep. 455
Long Live Democratic Seismologyp. 467
Benazir Bhutto: Daughter of Destinyp. 471
From Abbottabad to Worsep. 474
The Perils of Partitionp. 480
Algeria: A French Quarrelp. 493
The Case of Orientalismp. 498
Edward Said: Where the Twain Should Have Metp. 504
The Swastika and the Cedarp. 513
Holiday in Iraqp. 519
Tunisia: At the Desert's Edgep. 526
What Happened to the Suicide Bombers or Jerusalem?p. 532
Childhood's End: An African Nightmarep. 535
The Vietnam Syndromep. 541
Once Upon a Time in Germanyp. 548
Worse Than Nineteen Eighty-fourp. 553
North Korea: A Nation of Racist Dwarvesp. 556
The Eighteenth Brumaire of the Castro Dynastyp. 559
Hugo Bossp. 563
Is the Euro Doomed?p. 566
Overstating Jewish Powerp. 569
The Case for Humanitarian Interventionp. 573
Legacies of Totalitarianism
Victor Serge: Pictures from an Inquisitionp. 585
Andre Malraux: One Man's Fatep. 595
Arthur Koestler: The Zealotp. 602
Isabel Allende: Chile Reduxp. 607
The Persian Versionp. 617
Martin Amis: Lightness at Midnightp. 625
Imagining Hitlerp. 640
Victor Klemperer: Survivorp. 652
A War Worth Fightingp. 661
Just Give Peace a Chance?p. 669
W G. Sebald: Requiem for Germanyp. 673
Words' Worth
When the King Saved Godp. 687
Let Them Eat Pork Rindsp. 697
Stand Up for Denmark!p. 704
Eschew the Taboop. 709
She's No Fundamentalistp. 712
Burned Outp. 716
Easter Charadep. 719
Don't Mince Wordsp. 722
History and Mysteryp. 726
Words Matterp. 730
This Was Not Lootingp. 733
This Other L-Wordp. 736
The You Decadep. 739
Suck It Upp. 742
A Very, Very Dirty Wordp. 745
Prisoner of Shelvesp. 748
Acknowledgmentsp. 751
Indexp. 753
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

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