A witty, wise, biting, and completely individual meditation on what it means to think, live, and be to the contrary.
In the book that he was born to write, provocateur and best-selling author Christopher Hitchens inspires future generations of radicals, gadflies, mavericks, rebels, angry young (wo)men, and dissidents. Who better to speak to that person who finds him or herself in a contrarian position than Hitchens, who has made a career of disagreeing in profound and entertaining ways. This book explores the entire range of "contrary positions"-from noble dissident to gratuitous pain in the butt.
In an age of overly polite debate bending over backward to reach a happy consensus within an increasingly centrist political dialogue, Hitchens pointedly pitches himself in contrast. He bemoans the loss of the skills of dialectical thinking evident in contemporary society. He understands the importance of disagreement-to personal integrity, to informed discussion, to true progress-heck, to democracy itself.
Epigrammatic, spunky, witty, in your face, timeless and timely, this book is everything you would expect from a mentoring contrarian. Ranging broadly in subject matter, these brief, intellectual primers to life are a stimulating read for anyone who wants to experience the insights, wisdom and advice of today's leading minds. Now available for the first time in handsome and affordable new paperback editions.
About the Author
Christopher Hitchens is a popular author, columnist, editor and book critic. He writes regularly for numerous publications and is the author of many books including the recently published Blood, Class and Empire and A Long Short War. He lives in Washington DC.
Hitchens, a columnist for the Nation and Vanity Fair, and author, most recently, of The Trial of Henry Kissinger, has made a career of disagreement and dissent, of being the thorn in search of a side. "Only an open conflict of ideas and principles can produce any clarity," he observes. Hitchens's views, also part of the Art of Mentoring series (see Dershowitz, above), unfold in the form of an ongoing correspondence with an imaginary mentee whom he advises on modes of thought, argument and self-determination, on how to "live at an angle to the safety and mediocrity of consensus." The threats to free will are many, some predictable: establishment powers, the media, religious edicts, the manipulation of language, polls, labels, people with answers. Less obvious corrosives: the Dalai Lama, harmony, the New York Times claim to publish "all the news that's fit to print" ("conceited" and "censorious"). Indeed, the supply of enemies to rail against seems endless. Over a short span, Hitchens sounds off on a variety of topics irony, radicalism, anarchy, socialism, solitude, faith and humor, to name a few propelling readers through both time and space, from the Bible to Bosnia. At times, the argumentative positions seem offered up for their own sake which the author argues is justified and may inadvertently raise the question of how far we can define ourselves by what we are not. But this mini-manifesto, despite the somewhat mountainous terrain, should provide readers interested in current events and anti-establishment philosophy with a clearer view into one of today's more restless and provocative minds. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Perhaps best known for his indictment of ex-President Clinton in No One Left To Lie To, Hitchens, a columnist for Vanity Fair and the Nation, is usually thought of as an irritable, irreverent, sarcastic, witty, and intelligent champion of the Left with a penchant for transcending the party line. In this sense, his latest offering is surprising, not so much because of the content his sympathies are still decidedly leftist, even though he is critical of the Left's past failures but in tone and style. Debuting a book series modeled upon Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet, he offers advice and encouragement to any young person who feels compelled to lead a life of nonconformity and dissent. Instead of offering trenchant political criticism, he contemplates the implications of not blindly joining the herd, methods of argument and persuasion, and the need for disagreement in intellectual development. He is occasionally dismissive of ideologies that differ from his own (mainly religious), and he is unabashedly partisan an emphasis on such leftist ideals as universal equality and respect for human rights pervades the text. But, overall, his advice is thankfully nonpartisan, and his passionate call to embrace dialectic thinking and contentious debate is convincing and, well, correct. For undergraduate and larger public libraries. "Library Journal" Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Pretty lame musings that capture but little of Nation columnist Hitchens's not inconsiderable wit-and even less of his iconoclasm. Having taught for some years at the New School in New York, Hitchens came upon the idea of composing a kind of ideological testament addressed to the young that would lay out his vision of the good life and offer some advice on how to achieve it. The scheme was inspired by Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet-and if you did not expect such a paternal, almost contemplative tone from Hitchens, you are not alone. This is the same man, after all, who has taken potshots at Mother Teresa (The Missionary Position, not reviewed) and Princess Di alike, a "grizzled soixante-huitard" (as he calls himself) to be sure, but one who detested Bill and Hilary Clinton (and delighted in the Lewinsky scandal) every bit as much as Rush Limbaugh did. The sober mask doesn't suit him, and most of what he lays out here as "contrarian" is strictly village-atheist stuff: the heroics of the solitary dissenter (Rosa Parks, Alexander Solzhenitsyn), the dangers of groupthink ("Beware of identity politics"), the broadening effects of travel, the importance of irony ("It's the gin in the Campari"), the innocence of Colonel Dreyfus (just in case you wondered), and the universal brotherhood of mankind ("we are one people"). There is also a good deal of name-dropping ("my dear friend Robert Conquest," "my Chilean friend Ariel Dorfman") and rather more accounts of the interesting places the author has been than most readers will require. Mercifully, however, Hitchens keeps his eye on the clock and doesn't go on much longer than most of his articles. A damp squib from someone who ought to know better.First printing of 75,000; author tour
Journalist Christopher Hitchens turns out to be the more modest mentor. His nineteen letters are as engaging as Dershowitz's and more provocative. Hitchens is eloquent and savagely witty, and his approach here is theoretical, less nuts-and-bolts than Dershowitz's. In an environment of political correctness and overly polite discourse, Hitchens' appeal is in his desire to challenge and shake up the system. The author reminds us that "human beings do not, in fact, desire to live in some Disneyland of the mind, where there is an end to striving and a general feeling of contentment and bliss." While most desire harmony and peace, Hitchens argues for the usefulness of strife and debate: "In life we make progress by conflict and in mental life by argument and disputation."
For Hitchens, "a state of praise and gratitude and adoration" is analogous to a "world of hellish nullity and conformism." Hitchens is deeply skeptical of those who criticize the politics of division, "as if politics was not division by definition," he points out. Having established himself as our preeminent political bad boy for his scathing attacks on Mother Teresa, the Clintons and Henry Kissinger, Hitchens will surely offend some with his antitheism: "I not only maintain that all religions are versions of the same untruth, but I hold that the influence of churches, and the effect of religious belief, is positively harmful," writes Hitchens, for whom religion "is, and always has been, a means of control."
The author is most effective when challenging us to resist the merely familiar and popular. The contrarian, Hitchens asserts, must be bold and aggressive, must not let weak assertions andbeliefs get by. Moreover, he or she must be willing to tell people what they don't want to hear. Recall how Hitchens, in his book The Missionary Position, was highly critical of alliances that Mother Teresa, esteemed and sacred to many, had formed with politicians and businessmen. Equally valuable is Hitchens' advice about overcoming self-doubt. "I am consoled, when I suffer this very same apprehension, by the thought that the Pope and the Queen and the President all wake up every morning with a similar gnawing fear. Or that, if they do not, they deserve to be doubted and distrusted even more, if that were possible, than I doubt and distrust them now."
Hitchens' articulate and perceptive arguments have enormous appeal, as does Dershowitz's keen scrutiny of the American legal system, and their books effectively hold the reader's attention. In an age shaped by pervasive opinion polling, both writers advise us to stand alone and passionately resist what others—guided by habit, good manners or conformity—too easily accept. Surely such a lesson is beneficial to us all.
"Hitchens is expanding his influence, showing the next generation how to 'think independently'." - USA Today"
|Table of Contents provided by Publisher. All Rights Reserved.|
Series: Letters to a Young...
For Ages: 18+ years old
Number Of Pages: 160
Published: 1st April 2005
Dimensions (cm): 20.4 x 12.9 x 1.4
Weight (kg): 0.135