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And Yet…: Essays


And Yet…: Essays

It would be nearly impossible to read in English without at some point coming across an article or quotation by Christopher Hitchens, an American transplanted from England whose life spanned several critical phases in modern history. Hitchens was born for the role of social critic, but so much more --- acerbic yet kind at times, strict yet also forgiving. He suffered fools gladly, as grist for his mill, and the landscape of his writing is littered with fiery phrases like luminous gems. He was a professor, columnist, critic, essayist, editor and award-winning author (HITCH-22, ARGUABLY). AND YET… is a posthumous collection drawn from the nearly 250,000 words of sardonic sagacity he left behind.

Hitchens was an iconoclast who happily toppled all idols, from Charles Dickens to Hillary Clinton to James Bond to V. S. Naipaul to Christmas. But not always without heart. He can, for example, cite Dickens’ limitations --- his contemptuous anti-Americanism, his annoying gift-card-ization of Christmas --- while lauding his little-known largesse: Dickens revamped Fagin in OLIVER TWIST and later created a kind, helpful Jewish moneylender (Mr. Riah in OUR MUTUAL FRIEND) after receiving an anguished plea from a Jewish lady concerned with the biased characterization of her people.

"Though the world has seen the last of Hitchens in the flesh, his words live on --- and, one suspects, we have not read the last of them."

In 2009, Hitchens damned the newly elected President Obama with faint praise, calling him a “cool cat” who “treads so lightly…that all impressions he has so far made are alarmingly slight.” He gleefully reported Hillary Clinton’s meeting with Sir Edmund Hillary, at which she recklessly declared that “her mother had actually named her for this famous and intrepid explorer." Hitchens was pleased to retort that Clinton was born in 1947, six years before Sir Edmund gained worldwide acclaim for his ascent of Mt. Everest.

Hitchens denigrates the American mania for Christmas with a barrage of verbal potshots --- “obligatory generosity,” “deadening routine,” “angels and menorahs on the White House lawn” --- reminding us that our Puritans banned such blasphemies as burning logs and lit-up trees. He handles the subject with his usual articulate waggishness, making us smile a bit at ourselves. His detractors might point to the root cause of his Scrooge-like disdain for our favorite holiday: Hitchens was what he liked to call an “antitheist,” firmly convinced that the big three religions were responsible for most of the ills of the world.

But Hitchens is quite able to mock himself, as here in a three-part essay, “On the Limits of Self-Improvement,” describing his attempts to look and feel younger: seminars, dieting, smoking cessation, dentistry and the magic of photoshopping. He concludes that his smile is “no longer frightening to children,” and his hair and skin no longer look “as if harvested from a battlefield cadaver.”

Since essays are brief by nature, one must draw conclusions about the man himself from the broader evidence this collection presents. Though the world has seen the last of Hitchens in the flesh, his words live on --- and, one suspects, we have not read the last of them.

Reviewed by Barbara Bamberger Scott on November 25, 2015

And Yet…: Essays
by Christopher Hitchens

  • Publication Date: October 25, 2016
  • Genres: Essays, Nonfiction
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • ISBN-10: 147677207X
  • ISBN-13: 9781476772073