Again, Christopher Hitchens

A few weeks ago the Globe ran my review of Hitch’s new collection of essays, Arguably (I reviewed Hitchens’ memoir, Hitch 22 last year, which you can read here.). I’ve held off on posting it here because for the first time in my writing life (as far as I know) I published an absolutely idiotic factual error. In my haste to get this down below the requested word count I did a bit of quick editing which resulted in a mistake that I didn’t catch until it was too late. Feel free to try and locate the mistake yourself. That I made such an error in this review is particularly galling.

Here’s how the piece opens:

Susan Sontag famously wrote that intelligence was “really just a kind of taste: taste in ideas.’’ Over the past decade, Christopher Hitchens has proven Sontag’s pithy bit of pretension true, though not in ways she would have foreseen. Pundits typically achieve notoriety precisely because they promote the prevailing prejudices of either the right or the left. Hitchens, one time Fleet Street rabble-rouser and rhetorical pugilist of the left, turned against his former fellow travelers. Hitchens vocally supported the Iraq invasion and has renounced many of his former lefty precepts in favor of a set of hawkish foreign policy positions. On the left he’s considered a neo-imperialist apologist for the Bush administration. The right doesn’t want him either. His undeniable intelligence seems tasteless to many; his devaluation shows that, for some, intelligence is really just taste in ideology. Sadly, this debate over his perceived political apostasy may be his legacy.

I don’t care about Hitchens’s politics. Or, rather, his sometimes-shortsighted political opinions are secondary to why one should read him. One reads him despite his reputation as someone who wants to drink, argue, and tear the ornaments off the tree, because he is, first and last, a writer, an always exciting, often exacting, furious polemicist. This fact, the most salient thing about him, often gets neglected in the public jousting.

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One Response to Again, Christopher Hitchens

  1. Dad Perkins says:

    pull the ornaments off a tree? I know a dude who likes to do that too.

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