Books

'The Quotable Hitchens' Gives Us the Best of Hitchens, Arranged in a Convenient Dictionary Format

Love him or hate him, Christopher Hitchens nearly always has something interesting to say. The Quotable Hitchens presents some of his pithiest remarks, arranged alphabetically by topic.


The Quotable Hitchens: From Alcohol to Zionism

Publisher: Da Capo Press
Length: 308 pages
Author: Christopher Hitchens, ed. Windsor Mann
Price: $17.00
Format: Paperback
Publication date: 2011-05
Amazon

You may not always agree with Christopher Hitchens, but you can certainly count on him to have something interesting to say on almost any occasion and on almost any subject. Although perhaps "interesting" should be in quotes, because sometimes Hitchens seems to be playing the role of the professional provocateur with remarks calculated to attract the maximum amount of attention. This is not entirely a bad thing: Hitchens is a writer, not a statesman, and if he's chosen to assume the role of a gadfly (annoying though he may sometimes be, Hitchens has also done a great deal to stimulate public debate on important subjects), at least he does it with gusto, wit and a fine command of the English language.

The Quotable Hitchens: From Alcohol to Zionism, edited by Windsor Mann and with an introduction by Martin Amis, offers a compendium of Hitchens' pithier proclamations arranged alphabetically by topic. Each is sourced to the original article with publication and date provided, should you care to look them up and see the quote in its original context.

This is a browser's book, inviting the reader to dip in at random and no matter where you land, you're almost sure to come away with an appreciation for Hitchens' gift for the well-honed barb and sharply worded takedown. Compliments don't seem to be so much in his line, although the question of whether that is due to temperament or to the fact that it's easier to show off your verbal chops in a putdown than in praise is one I will leave for another day. The alphabetical arrangement also facilitates quote-shopping so if you're looking for a snappy remark on a particular subject, you can get straight to it.

So tell us what you think about religion, Mr. Hitchens. "If only religion were an opiate. No known narcotic rots the brain so fast." No, please don't hold back, tell us what you really think. "There are four irreducible objections to religious faith: that it wholly misrepresents the origins of man and the cosmos, that because of this original error it manages to combine the maximum of servility with the maximum of solipsism, that it is both the result and the cause of dangerous sexual repression, and that it is ultimately grounded on wish-thinking."

Thank you, I think that's clear. Moving on to more practical concerns, what is your impression of American politics? "Most of the buying and selling of our national political process is legal, and the corruption is so routine that it barely raises a bump of outrage." Oh dear, perhaps you hold a higher opinion of the political process in your native country of Great Britain? "The winner-take-all rules of a British election mean that a party leader can become Prime Minister simply by waiting for the incumbent Government to decompose." But surely you have something good to say about the British system? "Parliament trains its sons in a hard school of debate and unscripted exchange, and so does the British Labour movement. You get your retaliation in first, you rise to a point of order, you heckle and you watch out for hecklers."

Well, I think we may have just discovered the model for your own inimitable style of discourse. Did your education at Oxford University have any influence on your intellectual development? "The Oxford debating tradition does possess one great strength, drawn indirectly from the Symposium. You are supposed to be able to give an honest account of an opposing or different worldview, and even as an exercise to be able to present it as if you believed it yourself."

Moving on to more personal matters, how would you characterize the American attitude toward sex? "Has there ever been a culture in which so much needless misery and superstition was generated by the question of where babies come from? The lazy term for societies dominated by sexual hypocrisy (always think of it, never speak of it) is 'Victorian.' But the English of those decades were robust and candid compared with the Americans of a century later."

And your personal feeling about male sexuality? "Some feminist theorists who compare the penis to a species of heat-seeking missile are being too flattering as well as too harsh." Thank you for recalling that image which I'm sure is now burned into my memory (although I do have to agree with the feminists on this one) and I hope we can find the time to chat again soon.

The Quotable Hitchens provides over 300 pages of this type of verbal gold and it's sure to please his fans. But the market is really much wider than that: anyone interested in the art of turning a good phrase in the English language will want to give this volume a look.

7

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less
9
TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less
9

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

Keep reading... Show less
9
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image