November 27, 2011

"Arguably" very good overall but not great

ArguablyArguably by Christopher Hitchens

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Five stars for the content, four to four-plus for what is revealed about Hitchens.

Many of the essays in here are great. On matters religious, Hitchens postulates that Ben Franklin was an atheist, not a deist, that Lincoln was even more skeptical about organized religion than has been portrayed in the past and other things.

Much of this comes from reviews of books from various magazines. I read most of these, though skipping a few about modern British authors.

His take on Gore Vidal is great; Vidal was, indeed, "all that" until 9/11, when he went in the "truther" bin, among other things.

That said, some of his essays are clunkers, and others reflect that Hitch refuses to shine the light of logic on his own positions at times.

Take his continued "bleeding heart" stance on behalf of the Kurds, and using this to justify Bush's invasion of Iraq. Well, in all of his American reading, I'm sure he's heard the old phrase, "You dance with them what brung you." How he can excoriate Bush in other posts (yet not understand how this could, even without other evidence, fuel some "Truthers") yet defend not just an invasion of Iraq in the abstract but by George W. Bush is one of those places where logic and self-awareness fail him. (As does Realpolitik; he does mention that Kurds are a higher percentage of the population in Turkey than in either Iraq or Iran, but won't admit that the PKK is a terrorist group, nor will he wrestle with what a Greater Kurdistan might cause in the larger Middle East.)

And, he can erect the occasional straw man. Like Sam Harris, he now seems to believe that all left liberals are ethical relativists who won't "stand up to Islam." He raises this canard in his essay on Ayaan Hirsi Ali's "Infidel," claiming first that, and second that many said left-liberals have gone on to call her a fundamentalist.

No, Hitch, we've taken her to task for going to bed with the same neocons you have. If there's been more essays of this nature in the book, it would have gotten downgraded a star. Or more.

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