“ Author: Christopher Hitchens / Format: Paperback / Date of publication: 01 September 2012 / Genre: Non-Fiction Prose / Subcategory: Literary Essays / Publisher: Atlantic Books / Title: Arguably / ISBN 13: 9780857892584 / ISBN 10: 0857892584 / Alternative EAN: 9780857892553 „
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Publishing House: Twelve
Publication date: 09/2012
107 articles / essays
Duration: 816 pages
For those who do not actually care about the works of Christopher Hitchens, 'Arguably' has a knack of making you care. Well, in small doses anyhow, then you can 'have a break, have a Kit-Kat', maybe a foot tap, while digesting the essays of Hitchens the polemist, Hitchens the conversationalist, Hitchens the realist, and Hitchens the traditionalist. The book is hardly a sugar induced 'pick-a-mix' offering of subjects; that are easily digestible - no - 'Arguably' is 'exactly what it says on the tin'; not for the easily-offended. What the book does convey is all aspects of Christopher Hitchens wisdom, in essay format- hence, not a red biro mark in sight, either. Mainly these articles were originally published by Vanity Fair, Slate Magazine, Atlantic and The Washington Post dash NY Times - his journalistic prose was infinitely more scathing than most of his counterparts during a time whereby those whom stole power made more goofs than democratic policies, during a time whereby the west's ideologies were threatened by secular groups who were embroidered into western culture. Somehow, for some reason, all this brought out the best out of the polemist, regardless what fence you're perched on, sat on, or nailed too. You've got to admire his style, his research, his prolific journalism on a wide spectrum of subjects. 'Arguably', is arguably Hitchens index finger pointing at all the wrong-doings of those whom sleep-walked into high-end positions and sleep-walked out of high-end positions? Nevertheless it seems he was the only valid intellect awake and with a red biro at the ready - giving us ten years of essays and intellectual converse to the fore - now that's neat - what a treat!
Hitchens identifies the importance of language and how scripts can modify historical discourse for example if Orwell depicted a prose in his writings that denoted racialism, or perverted euphemisms which emulated the banter from a bookies cliché - I guess the tripe wouldn't of been published - yet it was typical of the working-class tongue. Evidence, of this was in the shape of Nationalism, threads of realism steam-roller into the mainstream ethos, at the strike of the millennium. Perhaps this is evidence of the triumph of 'democratic values' the freedom of speech, an emerging force on the wave of exploding communication technologies. This was when information transparency became paramount, or was seen to being paramount, politically and ethically. The rhetoric resides here today still. The English tongue working faster than the brain - allowed an audience for the sake of truth. There is a refreshing air of honesty, when the tongue gets ahead of oneself. A prose that tongue-tied Peter, his brother when discussing the concept that our English language made it difficult to lie and easier to tell the truth, arguably this exchange was sibling rivalry - but as the debate pressed on Peter's prose was annexed as he may of got the concept from a third party and subliminally from other sources - which begs the question does actual original thought / premise exist? - If it did, the concept would be alien to our intellect - duly on the factor there would be no link to anything beforehand, therefore wouldn't compute - hence; no-one would hear about it, and the concept would be logged into a dormant file named: 'Only open, if all else has been exhausted and failed!'
Enoch Powell's address to 'The Society of St George' in 1969, was one of those fleeting political 'Only open, if all else has been exhausted and failed, 'occasion (s) when he ignored his counsel about native reticence and instead embarked on his 'merry way' sprouting out rhetoric from his book; 'Freedom and Reality' (1969). Here's a speech extract: "Speak to us in our own native tongue, the tongue made for telling truth in, tuned already to songs that haunt the hearer like the sadness of spring..." Hitchens Orwellian prose dissects the Powellism as if a neurosurgeon removing a metastatic tumor. "His (Powell's) interest in English as a language - aside from its ingenuity in euphemism and propaganda and its surpassing literary tradition - derived largely from his prescient conviction that it would become international tongue, and thus that the task of keeping it relatively unpolluted was a grand human project". The so-called English's 'great tradition' - Powell advocates F R Leavis's 'English': commenting on the English classics by; Henry James, George Eliot, Joseph Conrad, and Jane Austen - yet two of these great novelists are not English. A great example of where 'politics and the English language' denotes in bad politics and therefore bad writing.
You can see where bad politics derive - G W Bush wanted to remove Hussein duly on the factor his Pa didn't have the political awareness or gumption, although 'Stormin Norman' no doubt would've popped him off in one gruff battle-cry, saving many dollars in the meantime. Saddam's successor could've been picked by those at the Whitehouse before the internet's social media swept across tyrannical states. Ah, the wonders of foresight - Hitchens was in favour of the Iraq deployment from the outset - this surprised his counterparts - although Hitchens was prone to delivering a swerve-ball, and announces that Anglo-Americanism has defeated three main threats: "German Wilhelmine imperialism in 1918, the Nazi-Fascist Axis in 1945, and international communism in 1989." - The end of the cold war. The dismantling of the Berlin Wall signified unity in Europe not just a divided nation, which had West and East values. The event broke down a national secularism, with great gravitas worldwide. Symbolically a message stating: 'we are open for business!' - Now notably too the German nation's detriment, they're propping up the euro. Hitchens interview with Jörg Haider (1950 - 2008), the late leader of Austria's 'Freedom Party' gave an unnerving comment in regards to the new 'Euro' currency - with a disagreeable sneer, he asked Hitchens if he really liked "the new Esperanto money." A clever vocal prod bordering on psychological thrust there - Esperanto was the old dream of a world language that had the noose to abolish the Babel of competing tongues. Why would anyone learn a language no-one understands, or so to speak - learn it from scratch - on the premise others would follow suit? The euro system simulates this trait - a federal state of Europe flocking down to a two-tier league, there was an inevitability to the federal euro concept - although the nations that seemed to have got most out of the euro plan short term are now baring the austere brunt, due to biting the euro bullet. A social experiment is nearer the aimed plan than to create a prosperous federal state in Europe - Hitchens neither produced economic muscle or vehement stance on the system, just a social prod; albeit Haider's interview unraveled a peculiar thread to freedom in Europe, one that isn't altogether 'free' and destined to be 'doomed' - I therefore guess there was no need to prod the infantile project at the risk of it crying and the world losing confidence in it. Boo hoo! - Ref: 'Is the Euro doomed?' April 2010.
An element of respect for a social and economical project - Hitchens faux pas for most of the polemist's observers, though I hasten to stab, it wasn't accidental, and as usual, meticulously planned. Notably the euro-crisis is easy fodder to a polemist and poison pen the project while still in it's infancy wasn't high up on the hit-list. Of course, 'Arguably' isn't purely about 'seeking out a Hitch's hit-list' - not at all - there are witticisms filtering into sensitive areas which are expressed as if writing a letter, a Hitch talent, a readability quality he mastered as suggested by an editor during his earlier days of writing articles - (ref: my Mortality piece). Humour is super weapon when used appropriately - I refer to an article written in 2005, called 'Free and Easy': "There came a time many years ago when I decided to agree to the baptism of my firstborn. It was a question of pleasing his mother's family. Nonetheless, I had to endure some teasing from Christian friends--how could the old atheist have sold out so easily? I decided to go 'deadpan' and say, Well, I don't want his infant soul to go to hell or purgatory for want of some holy water". His raconteur style never waned; his 'deadpan' prose, befuddled observers who missed the message. 'Oh perhaps, the great polemist is warming to orthodox Christianity - seen the light' - ye-es, he did; at the end of his leafy Cuban. This is typical in his assessment of Freemason Benjamin Franklin's autobiographical 'comment': "With great attention to the proprieties of frugality and thrift, he still straight-facedly suggested that the "Party for Virtue", be actually named; "the Society of the Free and Easy." Franklin got rich and famous on his homespun quotes and whimsical takes on 'stating the obvious' - which could easily come from the game 'Trivia Pursuit'- his frugal guidebook was creatively titled: 'The Way to Wealth'. The advice is no more than a gentle 'lift' - a lift that incensed Mark Twain who passionate claimed it was, "full of animosity toward boys". One-dimensional at a glance; considering there are two sexes that I'm aware of and one of them I know intimately. Nevertheless, the profound quotation has ignited a spark within Hitchens converse and he avidly shares them with the bemused stranger as an ice-breaker presumably but one quote stood out from the plethora of nonsense - 'Tis hard for an empty Bag to stand upright'. You can see that the great wisdom leaves the almighty - Quite frankly, its Franklin - as the New Statesman is fully aware of. Ref: The Atlantic, November 2005.
Several generations audaciously feel that humanitarian intervention is American and their allies' job - It has been acknowledged that it is the west's soul purpose is to come to the aid of war-torn regions - money appears to be no object when it comes to intervention, obviously, I'm including the UK in this because apparently 'Foreign aid' is a separate fiscal entity entirely, (Foreign Fiscal Policy under the term intervention is immune to austere programs) - compared to the austere measures that UK administrations reap on the nation's occupants. Again, you feel that there is a coveted global handshake - a shake that should never be broken otherwise supernatural evils will be unleashed onto a nation that breaks fiscal foreign policy. What happened to working on the sidelines? At some point in the last thirty years a moral decision was made for quitting sideline activity and embark on becoming a 'global foreman'. So long the action filters into the file of: 'in the national interest', when this occurs it bolsters up capitalistic values; the 'fighting for democracy card' is lofted and we as citizens are playing blind. We as citizens are forced to feed from the trough of governed media propaganda - a multitude of conflicting data - which is known as variable opinions, masking the truth. In other words: the 'freedom of speech'. Hitchens doesn't confirm, but you gather there is a kind of covet global freemason style understanding. Whether it is designed to mask the truth, the jury is out - However, what is curious is that the American President Thomas Jefferson warned of the 'entangled alliances' that'll lies beneath humanitarianism - this tends to lead to searching for alleged 'monsters to destroy', and low-and-behold propagate the term under another headline, 'democracy' - sounds familiar, doesn't it? Naturally Jefferson lived in a time whereby America hadn't the firepower or will to become a global donor what it is today - however, the warning should ring out as a fire alarm each time a president steps up to the plate and military wise - intervene, under the term humanitarian - or vice versa, just like the 'chicken and the egg' analogy; facts get lost in translation and rhetoric becomes fact, and in-time becomes 'history' - then taught in schools to another generation and the pollution, sorry; pollination continues.
Known in journalistic circles as the modern day Orwell, we'll be discussing his readable converse well into the twenty first century. Hitchens book of 107 articles and essays exemplifies his highbrowed intellect. A hive of research into 1,500 words of subject debate per article - ten years worth, concisely documented in 'Arguably' - which is loaded with fascinating observations such as: "Did you know that Charles Darwin was born on the same day as Abraham Lincoln? February 12 1809! And in 'Imagining Hitler' - Do you recall the moment in 'The Silence of the Lambs' when a moth chrysalis is discovered in the throat of a mutilated woman, and taken for examination? The entomologists at the Smithsonian lose no time in establishing that this sinister insect was present by design and had been carefully nurtured. "Somebody," says the man with the tweezers, "grew this guy. Fed him honey and nightshade. Kept him warm. Somebody loved him." Adolf Hitler was going no-where professionally; he was a fantasist - borderline mentally unstable - Hitler was protected, incubated, possibly groomed, and when the time was right, spoon-fed to the German people at the perfect psychological moment. A light-hearted article in a Freudian prose, Hitchens explained in detail: why women are not funny? This debate was certainly tongue in cheek and charmingly written from the results from 'Stanford University School of Medicine'. The results typify the genius and dry wit of Hitchens - a formidable combination.
"Women appeared to have less expectation of a reward. So when they got to the joke's punch line, they were more pleased about it." The report also found that "women were quicker at identifying material they considered unfunny."
John Updike and the likes have a great raconteur on their hands. Hitchens, 'Arguably' is irreplaceable. Highly recommended.