Christopher Hitchens: read him now

I re-started blog writing because every successful writer I know has told me, “Um, the only way you get better at writing is by writing.” It’s obvious, but it took me a while to hear it and act on it.

When I want to write, I turn to Christopher Hitchens for inspiration and guidance. I find every sentence well-crafted and the whole structure of almost everything he does just mesmerizing. He’s working above most opinion and reporting writers even when’s just tossing something off.

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You may find some of Hitch’s work disagreeable. Indeed, the work I’m reading now is Letters to Young Contrarian and it is highly recommended. Within the first few pages he successfully steers you away from categorizing him as a mere naysayer, but rather someone with an awful lot to say, especially on topics that a lot of people don’t want to talk about. And it’s all done with light but deep prose that I don’t find anywhere else.

Part of the joy of Hitchens is his encyclopedic quote work, especially of people outside my normal range of familiarity. I’m less than halfway through but he’s already provided me with Harold Rosenberg referring to his friends as “the herd of intellectual minds.” How about a little Latin: Fiat justitia — ruat caelum. “Do justice, and let the skies fall.” And then a reminder that the cliche “miscarriage of justice” has the (perhaps intended) effect of pardoning all parties involved. Miscarriages happen. Most of the time what people mean is “abortions of justice,” but perhaps that’s a bit on the nose.

His brief but powerful examination of Emile Zola and the Dreyfus years in France also has me wondering what the hell happened to journalism in the United States. Hitchens would and did call them cowards. I’m fairly convinced.

Oh, and I read his Mortality while I was sick last year. It helped.

So read this book. Read Hitchens. Be delighted. Be enraged. Disagree with him and with me. He loves conflict and wants you to love it too. Because out of conflict comes truth and life. He quotes Aldous Huxley:

“Homer was wrong,” wrote Heracleitus of Ephesus. “Homer was wrong in saying: ‘Would that strife might perish from among the gods and men!’ He did not see that he praying for the destruction of the universe; for if his prayer were heard, all things would pass away.” These are the words on which the superhumanists should meditate. Aspiring toward a consistent perfection, they are aspiring toward annihilation. The Hindus had the wit to see and the courage to proclaim the fact; Nirvana, the goal of their striving, is nothingness. Wherever life exists, there also is inconsistency, division, strife.

 

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2 thoughts on “Christopher Hitchens: read him now”

  1. I’m glad you posted this. I used to read him all the time but now it’s been years since I enjoyed the great wordsmith’s prose.

    Time to dust off some books!

    Liked by 1 person

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