Recently I have been ultimately disappointed by one of my heroes. I’m not sure that there is any way I could truly convey my sadness, maybe there are secularists or atheists out there who feel my pain. I had become a big fan of the orator, Christopher Hitchens, maybe a year before his passing. I have spent most of my time since admiring the man who could not only structure arguments with wit and sharpness, but also switch from dry humour to utter vengeance without a moments notice. His intellect and use of the spoken word, I am sure, has done more for atheists in the 21st century than Galileo.
Now I can take his balls out of my mouth and start my saddening critique.
With many things that I look forward to, I wait as long as I can to taste the fruits of excitement. From films, TV shows, and books – I have a thing of leaving the best till last, or at least giving myself a sense of tension and patience. With Hitchens, I have seen most likely every single debate of his on youtube more than once, I have learned many things from him including how to debate, and most importantly how not to fall into using logical fallacies. I have now finally got around to reading his books. All I can say is, I wish I hadn’t.
I know many will say the same of my books, but I doubt anyone looks up to me as a hero. Firstly I read ‘god is not Great’, I expected so much, and in turn felt I received so little. I often found myself bored and underwhelmed by his arguments. Where had his fierce nature gone to? I almost didn’t hear a peep in his book about Islam, he barely even touched on the utter absurdity of the 3 main monolithic faiths – although he took some good shots at Mormonism. On stage, in front of a crowd he could literally destroy Judaism, Christianity and Islam in 5 minutes or less – and would do so strikingly. Yet in this book, he almost sounds like an apologist, I kept thinking any minute now he will get angry and tell me what he really thinks. Instead of the whiskey & smoke fuelled attack I was used to, I got some vegan excuse for atheism. In many chapters I found it hard to understand on what side of the fence he stood – those who know Hitch from only his debates will be shocked to read this, and probably regard these statements as untrue. Be that as it may, all I can give is my account.
If I had to put up ‘god is not Great’ against the likes of ‘Infidel’ which I read directly before hand, I would have to say the latter surpassed the former by a substantial margin. I believe the curse has to be that the style of spoken word, the use of language on the spot, the sheer charisma – and it must be mentioned – utter raw sexuality of the “who gives a fuck what you think” attitude, has marred what one would expect to be an equal writing style. In its stead is a system of printed information that goes simply over my head. Where did the wit go? Where can I find the stinging rebuttals?
Next was ‘The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory & Practise’
This also fell short. I do know that reviews online are simply dazzling for both these titles, but I must admit, I do feel Hitchens’ fanbase may be the driving force behind such. If not I am astounded at how much I missed the boat. Although the attack on Teresa has its warrants and validity, it seemed dull in comparison to Hitch’s own TV show that preceded the book. By condensing the information and using his conversational skills, he was gripping and informative – the book is neither in my opinion. One thing I have to admit, although this is of my own fault and not his, I simply find too many Latin phrases being used. My education has given me a few well known catch phrases of the Latin ilk, but on nearly every page I am subjected to a reminder of how bad my education really was – If I wanted to know about Mother Teresa in a dead language I would have read the Latin translation. That is neither here nor there. Worst of all has to be the fact I knew of many sentences before they appeared. By the half way mark I understood many of Hitchens’ famous phrases were not on the stop genius but thought out statements which he used in his books. At first glance of a chapter I knew there would be a certain sentence about this or that copied from one of his many debates – verbatim. This disappointed me the most. My heart sank when I noticed I was a step ahead of him. All it took was a suspicious eye to see him mention the Nazi’s, and I could taste the bitterness of a sentence that would be coming soon regarding the only excommunicated Nazi (Joseph Goebbels) and not for his crimes against humanity, but for his marriage to a protestant “you see, they do have standards”.
This skin crawling self theft happened on all too familiar basis.
Both of those books have left me cold; I am hoping the next title ‘The Trial of Henry Kissinger’ will bring back my admiration. In truth, it will never go, as a man, he is a legend in my eyes; as a writer of non-fiction regarding politics and religion, I am not convinced.
I will be the first to admit, my misunderstanding of the brilliance of Hitchens’ written work is most likely a lack on my part – but I cannot force myself to enjoy what I do not enjoy.
Did anyone else feel this way? I am genuinely interested in finding out. Can I be the only one? Maybe my standards and expectations were just too damn high – maybe I should have thought of him more human and less heroic. I wanted Hitch Slaps and I got a man who seemed to caress religion with a soft paw – it must be harder to be angry when looking at a computer and not William Lane Craig.
Who am I kidding. The man was a genius. The fault is clearly my own.
Back to normal folks or as Hitchens would say “tergum ut Northmanni”