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Arguably - Introduction 
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Post Arguably - Introduction
Surprisingly, in making the four pages of threads for all the essays in this fat book, Chris neglected to make a thread for Hitchens' Introduction. So I am starting a new thread.

Hitchens there tells us that, although the "people who must never have power are the humorless" (pxviii), and he wishes "to keep the solemn and pious at bay" (xix), nonetheless "a serious person should try to write posthumously ... as if the usual constraints ... did not operate". So with his penchants for cigarettes and whisky (and wild wild women?) having given him a death sentence recently from cancer, Hitchens feels liberated to tell us what he really thinks, (except I assume for the risk that his publisher might have to pulp his book if it proves too free and libelous). We can therefore expect to learn much in this book, written without fear or favor.

I cannot avoid though, drawing attention to an egregious error on the very first page, much as I hesitate to open with a small criticism of a writer whom I greatly admire. If I were an apologist, I might use this slip as proof positive that nothing whatsoever that Hitchens says deserves any notice. But I am not an apologist, so this one mistake can be put down to misfortune. But if I find another one he will start to look as careless as Earnest.

Christopher Hitchens wrote:
"The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church," wrote the Church Father Tertullian in late first-century Carthage. (p.xv)
Now as any schoolboy knows, Tertullian did not start writing until the late second century, and mainly wrote in the third century. Hitchens may well be attributing miraculous powers to Tertullian to be able to write his famous line at the ripe age of minus one hundred, but that seems unlikely. This unfortunate slip, and yes it is careless, does actually tell us something about Hitchens' knowledge of and interest in Christianity. The fact is that we have no evidence that martyrology as such started its mythic progress for the church until the second century, so this display of careless ignorance shows a rather cavalier attention to detail, assuming that Christianity was far more advanced in the first century than was in fact the case. But no matter. I'm sure it will be the only error in the book. I look forward to reading it.


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Last edited by Robert Tulip on Sat Oct 01, 2011 12:35 am, edited 3 times in total.



Sat Oct 01, 2011 12:11 am
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Post Re: Arguably - Introduction
Well, my book arrived today and now I know why I got it for 11 bucks including shipping - it has a little dent on the back cover. It looks like someone shot it with a bb gun. I'll see if I can return it- oddly it came with a walmart receipt and they're usually unscrupulous about taking returns.

Anyway, on to the Intro! I have to say that Carthage caught my eye as that's the next area of history I'll be concentrating on but Tertullian did not and I would have skipped right over that fact had you not brought it to my attention. It appears he lived between (c. 160 – c. 220 AD). So that's a shame to have an error right out of the gate like that.

"Those willing to die for a cause greater than themselves have been honored from the Periclean funeral oration to the Gettysburg Address."

Perception. Those who died for Athens did so in order to keep and increase an empire they were slowly gaining under false pretenses. What did Athens do to countries that wished to quit the Delian league or throw of the Athenian yoke? It was an act of war. Lesbos nearly had ALL of its men exterminated after it tried to free itself from Athenian tyranny. (No men on Lesbos? hehehe)

So here we see the Periclean funeral oration and the Gettysburg Address in the same sentence. Both speeches have quite a lot of similarities. What does that say of America and the Civil War? What does that imply regarding imperialism or motive? How am I supposed to reconcile that with the little man who wishes to throw off the yoke his rulers have placed on him?

Now you see why this quote just didn't sit well with me...

About the humorless thing. Hitchens thinks he's a comedian. I haven't laughed yet. He thinks humor is a sign of great intelligence - those who are witty, that is. Those who find themselves to be laughing all the time he considers idiots. I sometimes wonder about this. I wonder, what's better? To be an entertainer or to be constantly entertained? Who has more fun? I came to the conclusion that it must always be the entertained with the caveat that some jokes come at the expense of the entertainer. So he may be correct about the witty person but those who may be entertained more oft than not probably have more fun.

He says he's going to give an essay on blow jobs? You know this dude is a homo, right? I wish a lady lesbian would write a book about how to do that other thing.

His Intro was pleasant. I think him to be a good conversationalist and maybe a Montaigne of our times - someone who is not an expert but who knows a tad more than the masses and enjoys writing.



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Sat Oct 01, 2011 10:58 am
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Post Re: Arguably - Introduction
Comacho,
Glad to see you're reading this, don't know if I will be, absent a deal equally as good as what you got, dent or no. There is a little bit of a "Hitch"-like quality in Comacho, no?

To my knowledge "Hitch" isn't a homosexual.



Sat Oct 01, 2011 2:28 pm
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Post Re: Arguably - Introduction
DWill wrote:
To my knowledge "Hitch" isn't a homosexual.


This surprised me as well. Turns out Hitchens did partake/experiment in quite a lot of homosexuality as part of the British boarding school experience.

Welcome back, Comacho.


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Sat Oct 01, 2011 3:16 pm
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Post Re: Arguably - Introduction
D, books seem to be getting more and more expensive. The inside cover of this one has it listed for 30 dollars. I just bought a history book to read that lists for 100! I wrote the co-editor/contributing author/publisher (he's a machine!) directly and complained about the price and that I had to eat and after I was done reading his book, I wouldn't be able to afford food and couldn't eat the book...etc. To make a long story short he wrote me back and agreed to give me a very reasonable discount. I received 4 history books which in all probably had about a 350 value for 100 including shipping. Considering one book goes for 100 by itself, I was very happy. Good deals are out there and when they are not it sometimes pays to go the extra mile. :)

I hope you join in. Amazon usually has good deals and if they don't you can always go to Wal-Mart, bend a copy of the book, and ask for a scratch and dent discount.

My personal hopes for this behemoth of a book? That I get enough out of it that I come to think of it as Hitchens' contribution to humanity and not my contribution to his cancer treatment.

Geo, thanks for the reception. I didn't really know he was gay. I just figured by the photo on the front cover. Creepy. Very creepy. I'm teasing. I think he made his activities known in his other book, Hitch-22.



Sat Oct 01, 2011 3:58 pm
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Post Re: Arguably - Introduction
Camacho,
Don't worry about Hitch; he probably has excellent medical coverage. Oh, and by the way, he's bisexual.



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Sun Oct 02, 2011 11:09 am
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Post Re: Arguably - Introduction
President Camacho wrote:
Well, my book arrived today and now I know why I got it for 11 bucks including shipping - it has a little dent on the back cover. It looks like someone shot it with a bb gun.

Well at least you got your book .. I paid more than 11 bucks but I'm still waiting ... I think in my case they shot the mailman not the book ... :?



Tue Oct 04, 2011 7:26 pm
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Post Re: Arguably - Introduction
Giselle! I returned my book at the local Wally World and got a full refund for it. My copy arrives on Oct. 13. So, I'll be able to post when you do. ;)

What do you think about the mail? Should we even have a federal mail system? Trivia...what is your mailman required by law to do if there is a nuclear strike on your home?



Tue Oct 04, 2011 8:22 pm
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Post Re: Arguably - Introduction
P Camacho ... I'm amazed your wally world has a book of this quality, I know ours doesn't, not even dented ones! In Canada we have a 'federal' mail system like yours ... I guess the advantage is that small places and rural areas actually get mail (once in a while) .. doubt this would happen if it were privatized ... and as to nuclear strike, well I expect the mailman would mark the parcel 'undeliverable' and take it back to the post office to be returned to sender ... assuming of course that the post office and the sender had not also been nuked!



Tue Oct 04, 2011 10:11 pm
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Post Re: Arguably - Introduction
I didn't know you were Canadian! Update your info!!!! ;) Here in the U.S. the postal service is charged with delivering Change of Address forms after a nuclear attack. LMAO! Look on Wal-Mart's website and maybe you can have them ship them to your local store? That's what I did. Don't know if there are Wal-Marts in Canada or not.

-P.C.



Tue Oct 04, 2011 11:32 pm
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Post Re: Arguably - Introduction
yah, we have walmarts in Canada (aren't they everywhere?) - i order thru amazon but i'm not too impressed with their service so maybe i should switch .. ... in the case of nuke attack on the US, pretty good chance that long range missiles would fly over Canada ... a few might fall short and wipe out some wal-marts! guess the posties would be really busy doing change of address cards - I agree, this seems a pointless gesture, but then again what would be the point of doing something else?! lol



Last edited by giselle on Wed Oct 05, 2011 12:36 am, edited 1 time in total.



Wed Oct 05, 2011 12:34 am
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Post Re: Arguably - Introduction
Having now reached page 180 of this wonderfully precise and evocative collection of jewels, I find myself in awe of Hitchens. Writers whom I have been too lazy and indifferent to read myself, such as Flaubert, Vidal and Dickens, I suddenly feel to be personal acquaintances after just a thousand words of essayed distillation through the wry and economical scalpel of Hitchens' pen. Festooned with grenades of eloquence and insight, Arguably is arguably brilliant.

With more than a hundred pieces to delight and inform, best get cracking. What I like about Hitchens is his ordinary modernity, saying things that relate to everyone, sympathetic to the popular but with an eye to the eternal, but far far better than anyone else could do. He will be sorely missed, but as he quotes Hume, non-existence after death is no more to be feared that the similar ages of nonentity before birth.

After cruelly drawing attention to his crass mistake about Tertullian on the very first page, I am yet to find another error beyond some accidental typos, and on every page you learn a lot of things you won’t want to forget. Maybe the Tertullian dating was deliberate, to put the reader on guard?


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Post Re: Arguably - Introduction
Hitchens is a fine lit man, as you say, and who can escape feeling envy at the range and depth of his reading? His journey is quite interesting, too, well illustrated in his bio, Hitch 22. We had some brief discussion on that book several months ago.



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