Archive for March, 2011


Christopher Hitchens is well-known to many readers of Vanity Fair magazine as a superb journalist, who informs and entertains his readers. But Hitch is so much more than a stellar columnist. Born in England (but now an American citizen) and fortunate enough to have been educated at Oxford, he has traveled in intellectual circles for much of his life. He’s been an author, traveler, foreign correspondent, friend to many famous and/or intellectual people, and a former socialist. It would be an understatement to say that he has had an interesting life.

In his mid-life Hitch discovered a long-held family secret: he had Jewish roots. (He had had no clue.) This single fact sent him on a search for the history of his family (tracing them back in Poland) and explained to him much of how his family history had developed. Hitch has been an atheist for his entire adult life, and his Jewish roots did nothing to change his mind.
Much of the early part of the memoir is devoted to his history as a committed socialist, and the activism which absorbed him for so long. I found this part a slog to read, but I was glad I stuck with it, as it set the stage for the later parts of his life. And the bonus part was reading about all the not-yet or soon-to-be famous people who were so much a part of his life. Fascinating stuff, and entertaining too. Most of all, I liked reading about he changed and grew as a person.

This was a challenging read, but so rewarding for the politics, history, and people within its pages. Hitch was a witness to much of the history of the mid-to-late 20th C, and I for one am glad he got it all together and created this memoir. It’s a wonderful legacy. I came away from it wishing that I had known Hitch personally.

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Monday night:
10:40 at night and I am bored out of my tree. Desperately cold day again and no sign of spring.
Went out twice today with the dog. Could not get back inside quickly enough. Spent too much of the morning on the computer. Tonight, read three more chapters of my first ebook loan from the Toronto Public Library. Yay for downloading books for free and reading on the iPad! I loved that I didn’t have to walk 6 blocks on a frigid night to get the book, when my reserve came through on Saturday night about 9 p.m.

My book is “Hitch-22”, the autobiography of Christopher Hitchens, who is a columnist at Vanity Fair, among other things. I’ve read many of his columns.
He’s been a journalist for a long time and is now fighting cancer of the esophagus, which was diagnosed last year. Vowed to his readers at Vanity Fair that he would keep on writing his column as long as he can.

Tonight’s chapters were all about his life as a student (about age 19 and 20) at Oxford. He ardently embraced socialism and was very much a leftist activist. Mostly he didn’t go to class. He lived through the upheavals of the late 60s and indeed missed none of it. He made me feel as though I had slept through the late 60s, which of course I didn’t (I was busy teaching and raising two young daughters.) But it was interesting at first to read of his political participation, and also to read his assessments of the various not-yet-famous or already famous people he came into contact with.
One of those men was Bill Clinton, who was at Oxford as a Rhodes scholar at this time. Hitch describes Bill as a chronic liar, and also as a man who loved his marijuana. But since Bill was allergic to smoke his whole life, he preferred to ingest his mary jane in brownies or other edibles. Who knew?

Well, it’s an interesting book, but right now it’s late, and I am tired of socialism (yawn) so I hope that tomorrow’s chapters offer something a little different. I have quite a few of his decades yet to go!

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