Sunday, March 18, 2012

Book Review: Hitch 22

Want to read about the life of a brilliant and insightful political journalist? Grab Hitch 22 by Christopher Hitchens

I first came across Christopher Hitchens during the great Atheist resurgence of 2006. It seemed that atheism was everywhere. Richard Dawkins had written his brilliant book, "The God Delusion" and was debating the existence of religion in style. Dawkins was well known from his previous works on evolution and Biology like "The Blind Watchmaker". I hadn't heard about Hitchens at all, but I found his debating style witty and crisp. Here's a two hour debate in which Hitchens talks about why rationality and atheism is the only humane choice. I was intrigued.

I found out more about Hitchens, which is to say I learned everything Youtube had to say about him. I found that he had written a book about Mother Teresa, and that it wasn't complimentary. The title of the book says a lot about Hitchens' writing style and wit. It is called The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in theory and practice. I couldn't wait to buy it so I was delighted to find that my library had a copy of the slim volume. From beginning to end, it was a delight. It made me realize how little I knew about Mother Teresa before considering her a saint. To this day, when I meet someone who claims to idolize Mother Teresa, I ask them to list exactly what they know about her. Often, the answer is vague and unsatisfactory. We are quick to idolize and deify.

It was a rude awakening, and when Hitchens wrote his book "God is Not Great", I rushed to get a copy. Like his other works, it was brilliant.

In Hitch-22, Christopher talks about friends and family in his life. It is a rare insight into his insightful mind as he relates formative incidents in his childhood and early adulthood. I was struck by how many notable poets and authors he got to know very early in life. His socialist leanings were not a revelation, but the manner in which he decided that contemporary socialism was lacking values was a captivating read. Along the way, he points out valuable lessons that he learned about independence of thought and the importance of action. He talks about going to Cuba back when travelers to Cuba were monitored closely and how he learned the rotten-ness of Soviet communism rather early. He talks of what he saw in Iraq and why he was a rare Left-leaning supporter of the war in Iraq. I did not agree with his views, but I see his point clearly now.

His writing style is charming and a pleasure to read. At times he gets academic and his sentences get long and laborious. But all through, he guides the reader through his life and allows the reader to draw their own conclusions. The ending is poetic and does justice to the confusing name.  A rare insight into a genius.

I'll miss you, Hitch.

(Image courtesy Google.)