Hitch-22 : A Memoir / Christopher Hitchens

When I picked up this memoir, I knew little about Christopher Hitchens other than he often wrote about political matters and had been an early supporter of Salman Rushdie after Khomeini issued a death sentence against that author. My lack of knowledge regarding Hitchens’ work detracted from my ability to fully understand numerous topics he touches upon in this memoir. Hitchens was English-born but American by adoption, and certainly a man of strong political convictions. In his student days he became a Marxist and an outspoken opponent of the Vietnam War. In this memoir, he traces his gradual shift from a leftist viewpoint in the 1970s to a conservative one in the 1990s. As a vocal atheist, he often wrote against radical Islam, and he later became a strong proponent for American intervention in Iraq. When it addressed political matters, I found his memoir to be quite interesting. But large parts of it deal with name dropping the writers and pundits he interacted with over the years, and his frequent feuds with them. Since I knew little about some of these individuals, my attention flagged in these sections. As a polemicist, he seems to have rarely forgiven others for disagreeing with his point of view. A well-known intellectual, over the years Hitchens was a foreign correspondent, a lecturer and teacher, and a highly respected literary critic. His experiences of visiting numerous war torn countries around the globe insure that this memoir provides him with a wide range of topics to touch upon. But as I mentioned above, I would have enjoyed reading this memoir more if I had been better acquainted with his literary output beforehand. Those familiar with his canon of work will find this an interesting read. For the uninitiated, it might prove to be a bit of a slog. On a sad note, shortly after this book was published in 2010, Hitchens learned he had esophageal cancer. He died a year later at age 62.

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