Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Letters to a Young Contrarian, by Christopher Hitchens

Audible from time to time offers a $10 coupon if you order a certain number of books at once. Then you have to find something that costs less than $10 on which to use your coupon. This is how I came to listen to two Christopher Hitchens works--Mortality, which I found interesting and admirable, and Letters to a Young Contrarian, which was dull enough to put me in a fugue state while listening. Perhaps it is because I am not young or am insufficiently contrary (unlikely) or not well educated enough to understand his allusions or appreciate his name-dropping. Perhaps it was the condescending tone of the narrator. Or perhaps there just wasn't much "there there." 

A few of the letters held my attention. As a civic educator who has spent a lot of time encouraging teachers to engage students in discussion of controversial issues, I enjoyed his appreciation of talking with those with whom you disagree: "Seek out argument and disputation for their own sake; the grave will supply plenty of time for silence." His examination of humor and the notion of living "as if" were also interesting. Overall, however, this collection left me unmoved.

Favorite passage: 
. . . if you really care about a serious cause or deep subject, you may have to be prepared to be boring about it. 

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