Hitch-22 (2010), by Christopher Hitchens


Hitch-22 is boring. That particular hitch, designated in the awful title (awful despite that Joseph Heller, author of Catch-22, has warmly commended the late Hitchens and, you must therefore believe, has written a classic much better than himself), is a tension between the excitement in hitching yourself to a powerful engine of history, Marxism, only to learn that Communist dictatorships are horrors, whereupon it becomes ignominious to defend oneself by stubborn obfuscation of such. The good intellectual is forthrightly relativistic when obligated to be so.

The problem is: we well know this oft-told truth. Several hundred pages today to reiterate it are several hundred too many and long underdue. Hitchens’s odyssey brings no news.

Hitchens’s intellectual journey shows him, I think, to have zigzagged between strongly opposing sides. The ball in a strenuous rally in a bitter club tennis match. Hitch-22 is a lengthy account of Hitchens’s predictable, undramatic days as a radical leftist college student (was it Churchill who remarked that a young conservative is an affront to nature?) followed by his being a journalist, reviewer and nonfiction writer, along with TV appearances, often debates. Over several decades before his untimely passing, Hitchens had arrived at Paul Wolfowitz and George W. Bush and promotional atheism.


Hitchens was friends with James Fenton, Martin Amis and Ian McEwan. McEwan, a truly important mind and literary talent, seems publicly polite and socially deft; H, F and A were/are not, in my view, especially interesting. In Vanity Fair when H was on his game as a reviewer, you wanted to have read him. The more literary and less political he was, the better.

If I were you, I wouldn’t bother with Hitch-22.