The Reading Room

Christopher Hitchens: Prepared For The Worst

Re-issue of Christopher Hitchens Selected Essays and Minority Reports..


Last week I wrote enthusiastically about receiving a reprint of early Christopher Hitchens essays entitled ‘For The Sake Of Argument’ which, for any follower of a youthful Hitchens on C-Span videos uploaded to YouTube is, excuse the pun, a Godsend.

Atlantic Books have reprinted another fine volume of his essays from the 1980s called ‘Prepared For The Worst’, a selection of typically outspoken Hitchens printed both in Britain and America. These ‘reports’ were written at a time when Hitchens was making his mark in America. His Oxford ‘twang’ won him admirers and haters in near equal measure but nobody could argue about his scope and knowledge of subject matter. His bold, unapologetic, almost punk-like approach to current affairs brought his inner geek a rock style status, he made ‘knowing stuff’ look cool.

This book should certainly appeal to those of a nostalgic bent, it is, as he would say, ‘a salad’ of essays on topics as diverse as one could hope to imagine. There are the obvious inclusions such as Reagan and Oliver North as one would expect from any political commentator from that period but they sit between a piece on Umberto Eco and a hammer taken to ‘The Little Drummer Girl’ by John Le Carré. That darling of the Tory right, Reggie Maudling and his memoirs fares little better in The New Statesman whilst his numerous pieces for The Nation provoked many a discussion and political chat-show phone-in frenzy.

It is easy to revel in the nostalgia of this book but it is also worth remembering the effects of his writing upon his subject matter. His prose would often cut deep with wounds which seldom truly healed. He pulled no punches in his criticisms and never evaded a related question. He possessed a brilliant mind and wit and without fear nor care of repeating myself, one should read his work irrespective of your political and/or religious point of view. He was that good.

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