Arguably: Selected Essays

Christopher Hitchens, Arguably: Selected Essays - Signal 2011

Read from September 14th to November 17th, 2012
My rating: 3/5 stars


Funny how in a book you didn't particularly enjoy reading (I'll explain) you find a super quote, so perfect that you become obsessed with for days in a row. Check it out:
"A point, like a joke, is a terrible thing to miss." 
I was so enthusiastic with this point of view discovered in the first pages of this enormous book that I kept reading for a while before acknowledging that it's pointless to continue in a systematic manner and I began browsing and skipping.

The journalist's work is condemned to transiency par excellence. He keeps trying to capture the moment and he does, but not always yesterday news are relevant tomorrow. That's why even when his subjects are serious and important, they are not of great significance to me (I never read journals and I don't keep in touch with world events on a regular basis) so my lack of interest is not the author's fault at all, because his book is well written and foreign policy articles are brilliant (man, did he travel!), but policy - foreign or not - has no appeal for me. 

On the other hand, his literature essays lack sometimes in depth and are slightly boring, and the social analyzes are a little tendentious, even if intelligent (so tricking) ones.

Of course, as usual, I retained some information (sometimes useful, sometimes not): that the expression "blow job" comes from "below job" (did I have to know that? I don't think so, but it's funny, nonetheless); that "cottage" is the name that homosexuals gave to tearooms (another British gay slang term referring to lavatory); that death penalty for minors still exists in some states of USA; that there was a 7-year legal struggle involving prolonged life support (Terri Schiavo case), etc.

The most interesting part of the enormous book was "Offshore Accounts", from which "Tunisia: At the Desert's Edge" is an amazing article about an afro-Arab state, very democratic and modern.

Overall, you cannot help admiring a great journalist and a man who was never afraid to express his opinions - and a suggestive example is the scene in Beirut, where seeing a poster with a swastika he begins to write some insults on it and he is beaten by a Syrian fanatic (too long to explain, just read the article "The Swastika and the Cedar", in the same section of the book). 
In this (but not the only) context, the saying quoted at the beginning of my review acquires new depths: "A point, like a joke, is a terrible thing to miss."

1 vote. Average rating: 5.00 / 5.

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