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Letters To A Young Contrarian

Christopher Hitchens writes this masterful book to the reader ("Dear X") about inspiring new generations of contrarians (one who opposes or rejects popular opinion; going against current practice. As the back of the book says, "There is no one writing today with a greater understanding of the importance of disagreement - to personal integrity, to informed discussion, to true progress, to democracy itself." As I began reading, I immediately began to like Hitchens. The way he addresses the reader, his ideas, and simply is writing. For example, Hitchens writes that we don't aspire to any paradise (or in his words, "hazy, narcotic Nirvana) because human nature, critical and ironic, would become useless. Hitchens writes, "Imagine a state of endless praise and gratitude and adoration...and you have conjured a world of hellish nullity and conformism. Imagine a state of bliss and perpetual happiness and harmony, and you have summoned a vision of tedium and pointlessness and predictability, such as Huxley with all his gifts was only able to sketch." (24-25) I love this quote for two reasons - one, for its mention of Brave New World and two, for the pure logic and simplicity in which he completely destroys the basis of every religion since Hinduism (founded 3000 BCE). Hitchens was listed by Forbes magazine as one of the 25 most influental liberals in the U.S. media but said because " he styles himself a 'radical,' will likely be aghast to find himself on this list." (source, Forbes) As I was reading Letters to a Young Contrarian, I kept a running list of terms, events, people, quotes that he mentions that I wanted to look further into or found interesting. One quote that stuck with me - "The truth cannot lie, but if it could it would lie somewhere in between." Also, a warning, his vocabulary is extremley sophisticated - so much so I had to pause after every page to look up words. Some interesting words I learned (see how many you know!)- euphony, anomie, propitious, chiaroscuro, fatuous, ashram, thralldom, unfettered, salient, agnosticism, turgid, cretinous, and repartee. I am currently attempting to get through his memoir, Hitch-22, but I literally cannot read more than five pages at a time without my brain exploding. In conclusion, read this if you want an intellectually stimulating novel. At only 141 pages, it seems small, but it is so jam-packed with information that you need to read it 10x slower than your normal pace. The only critique I would have of this book is that you legitimately need to sit with a computer at the ready to be able to look up all of his references and fancy vocabulary! Rating: ★★★★

Nine Parts of Desire

The Handmaid's Tale