May 19, 2022

Reading Uncertainly? ‘And Yet . . . ‘ by Christopher Hitchens

Here is yet another compendium of literate, acerbic, often hilarious, and thoroughly opinionated essays from Christopher Hitchens, the UK-expatriate who moved to Washington for freedom from monarchy and amusement.

He died in 2011 at the youthful age of 62 but these essays will long outlive him.

He dissects both people (Che Guevara, Edward Kennedy, George Orwell, Barack Obama, Gertrude Bell, Orhan Pamuk, Salman Rushdie, Ian Fleming, Edmund Wilson, and more) and places (Ohio, the Parthenon, Armenia, London, the South, and especially Washington).

His views and ideas always poke fingers into your mind.

Consider: (1) Turkey is “an army that has a country.” (2) “We live in a culture that’s saturated with the cult of personality and with attention to private life.” (3) “ . . . the great soap opera of our existence . . . .” (4) Leaders are “as much the prisoners of events as the masters of them.”

No holiday is exempt from his derision. Twice he lectures us against the celebration of Christmas. His favorite Protestant fundamentalist (Hitchens himself is an outspoken atheist) is Oliver Cromwell, who “banned the celebration of Christmas altogether.”

Hitchens also skewers himself, with three riotous chapters about his attempt toward self-improvement, readily acknowledging his three major flaws: smoking, drinking and gorging on fat food.

Yet he often sheds some new insight. He compliments Barack Obama’s rare qualities as, “…an apparently very deep internal equanimity, and an ability to employ irony at his own expense.”

Even while seeming certain, he acknowledges this, “… age of uncertainty which has now definitively become our age. It seems that there are no rules, golden or otherwise, even natural or otherwise, by which we can define our place in the universe or the cosmos.”

Do read these challenging essays, plus, if you are ambitious, try two of his earlier works, The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Nonbeliever, and god Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. That is correct, the word “god” is deliberately not capitalized.

Hitchen’s conclusion: “ …  internationalism is the highest form of patriotism.”

Editor’s Note: And Yet . . .’ by Christopher Hitchens was published by Simon & Schuster, New York in 2015.

Felix Kloman

About the Author: Felix Kloman is a sailor, rower, husband, father, grandfather, retired management consultant and, above all, a curious reader and writer. He’s explored how we as human beings and organizations respond to ever-present uncertainty in two books, ‘Mumpsimus Revisited’ (2005) and ‘The Fantods of Risk’ (2008). A 20-year resident of Lyme, Conn., he has recently moved to Peabody, Mass.
Felix now writes book reviews, mostly of non-fiction, a subject which explores our minds, our behavior, our politics and our history. But he does throw in a novel here and there.
For more than 50 years, he’s put together the 17 syllables that comprise haiku, the traditional Japanese poetry and, while living in Lyme, served as the self-appointed “poet laureate” of Ashlawn Farm Coffee.
His late wife, Ann, was also a writer, but of mystery novels, all of which begin in a village in midcoast Maine, strangely reminiscent of the town she and her husband visited every summer.

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