Tuesday, March 07, 2006

"Letters to a Young Contrarian"

In answer to the question, what am I reading these days... Well, I've picked up the pace as of late, trying to read at least two books a week, and I've finished three in the last two days.

Most recently, an hour ago: Christopher Hitchens' little tome "Letters to a Young Contrarian," inspired by Rilke's "Letters to a Young Poet" of yore.

Hitchens' overcoat and cigarette tell some of the story. He's a genuine gum shoe/shoe-leather journalist -- on the plane, on the ground, in the bush, down the alley, all over the map. He's been there, done that, and few come close to what he's seen and heard. But he's also an edgy chap, jet lag and nicotine inspired, as he says, hoping "to live long enough to graduate from being a 'bad boy' ... to becoming a 'curmudgeon'."

His brand of contrarianism is pretty thoroughly political, though to be fair, down in the trenches political. He's a name-dropper and full of jungle stories - and a bit of himself, perhaps for good reason, just as a fighter pilot must be somewhat full of himself. Though, unlike most fighter pilots, man o' man does this ash and ink-stained bloke have a vocabulary!

I sometimes say I read Henry Thoreau at the wrong time, at an impressionable age, and I took Thoreau seriously and to heart. He was MY hero. Hitchins doesn't mention Thoreau in 'Young Contrian', a missed opportunity, I think. His shades of gray heroes seem to be Zola and Havel, the progenitors of science and scurilous scoop-diggers like himself.

COMING SOON: more on this and four choice quotations from Hitchins' book...


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