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Book Reviews - Note de lecture

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Christopher Hitchens

I can't remember who said that you could become a good writer if you continuously tested your prose against that of other [great] writers. I think it was, a favourite writer of mine, the late Christopher Hitchens (1949-2011) who, amongst his favourite authors were : George Eliot, Marcel Proust, George Orwell, Ian McEwan, P. G. Wodehouse, Oscar Wilde, James Joyce and Karl Marx. A rather eclectic crowd but, as he said (this time I know it's his), he was only good at two things : reading and writing. Couldn't have been a lawyer or held any other job, he kept saying,  as he hadn't choosen his profession ; that it had choosen him.

Amongst his many books :

    • The Missionary Position : Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice

    • No One Left to Lie To : The Values of the Worst Family (The Clintons)

    • The Trial of Henry Kissinger

    • Thomas Jefferson : Author of America

    • Thomas Paine's Rights of Man : A Biography

    • The Portable Atheist : Essential Readings for the Non-Believer

    • God Is Not Great : How Religion Poisons Everything

You can read all about him in a Wikipedia Page and you'll find several, perhaps as much as forty, conferences or interviews he gave, or debates in which he participated, etc. on YouTube. See :

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christopher_Hitchens

And to quote him, more or less in context, read this :

"So after hundreds of millions of years just floating around the cosmos, Suddenly this magical being decides it's time to intervene on planet earth in the form of a filthy human sacrifice, in the most illiterate backward barbaric area of the middle east. To later go on and say that, if you don't accept me you may be eligible for an eternity of hell fire and torment ? What is this ?"

Hitchens was an atheist, if you didn't know.

Thought I'd mention him but some of you might wonder, amongst his favourite authors, who was P. D. Wodehouse (ahum : Sir Pelham D. Wodehouse) and why he appears in Christopher Hitchen's list. Briefly, he is a satirist or rather a humorist along the lines of Jerome K. Jerome ("Three Men in  Boat", etc.) who is best known for a pair of characters,  the feather-brained Bertie Wooster and his sagacious valet, Jeeves (who called his master "mentally negligible"), at the basis of a tv series known as "Jeeves and Woosters" played by Steven Fry and Hugh Laurie from 1990 and 1993.

You can read all about him and his special brand of humour in a very long Wikipedia entry at this address :

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P._G._Wodehouse

But if you want to have a good idea of his style, wach the first episode of the Fry and Laurie's "Jeeves and Woortsters", on YouTube.:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tk7pk58Bq4Q

The first scene is in court following a night out (after a boat race) is a classic, particularly if you heard or read the judge's address before condemning Oscar Wilde to two years of hard labor.

And yes, Hugh Laurie is the Doctor House on House M.D. - And the completely original jazzzy theme was composed by none other than Anne Dudley.

And to go back to Christopher Hitchens, one of his most famous one-liner, a few weeks before his death (esophageal cancer), was the answer he gave to someone who had asked him how he was : "I am dying... but so are you."


Christopher Hitchens
Photo source : The Daily Mail (UK).

American theoretical physicist and cosmologist Lawrence Krauss, a friend of his, said, "Christopher was a beacon of knowledge and light in a world that constantly threatens to extinguish both. He had the courage to accept the world for just what it is and not what he wanted it to be. That’s the highest praise, I believe, one can give to any intellect. He understood that the universe doesn’t care about our existence or welfare and he epitomized the realization that our lives have meaning only to the extent that we give them meaning."

Copernique Marshall

P.-S. : And please, in your readings, do not forget David Humes whose autobiography starts with this uncanny statement :

"It is difficult for a man to speak long of himself without vanity; therefore I shall be short. It may be thought an instance of vanity that I pretend at all to write my life; but this narrative shall contain little more than the history of my writings ; as, indeed, almost all my life has been spent in literary pursuits and occupations."

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