Letters to a Young Contrarian

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9781435292536: Letters to a Young Contrarian

"Art of Mentoring" seriesIn the book that he was born to write, provocateur and best-selling author Christopher Hitchens inspires future generations of radicals, gadflies, mavericks, rebels, angry young (wo)men, and dissidents. Who better to speak to that person who finds him or herself in a contrarian position than Hitchens, who has made a career of disagreeing in profound and entertaining ways.This book explores the entire range of "contrary positions"-from noble dissident to gratuitous pain in the butt. In an age of overly polite debate bending over backward to reach a happy consensus within an increasingly centrist political dialogue, Hitchens pointedly pitches himself in contrast. He bemoans the loss of the skills of dialectical thinking evident in contemporary society. He understands the importance of disagreement-to personal integrity, to informed discussion, to true progress-heck, to democracy itself. Epigrammatic, spunky, witty, in your face, timeless and timely, this book is everything you would expect from a mentoring contrarian.

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Review:

"Do justice, and let the skies fall." Christopher Hitchens borrows from Roman antiquity this touchstone for a career of confrontation, argument, and troublemaking. Part of the Art of Mentoring series, Letters to a Young Contrarian is a trim volume of about two dozen letters to an imaginary student of controversy. The letters are wonderfully engaging--Hitchens is an exceptional prose stylist--and from the outset they strike a self-reflective note. What Hitchens lionizes and illuminates in this book is not any particular disagreement, but a way of being perpetually at odds with the mainstream. "Humanity is very much in debt to such people," he argues.

Hitchens's style is incendiary and sometimes flamboyant. He relishes the role of provocateur and fancies himself a gadfly to the drowsy American republic. One of his main strengths is his erudition, allowing him to range over vast landscapes of the humanities and politics in a single breath. But he is also sometimes glib and self-satisfied, and his penchant for referencing everything in sight can be distracting. Nonetheless, his arguments are forceful and morally important--and if the reader feels otherwise, there are few more fitting compliments to a professional dissident than dissent. --Eric de Place

About the Author:

Christopher Hitchens is a contributing editor to Vanity Fair. His numerous books include Letters to a Young Contrarian and Why Orwell Matters.

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