Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Normblog on Christopher Hitchens

Christopher Hitchens has one of the most nimble intellects alive. His prose, both written and oral, is a glittering roman candle of wit, full of brilliant nuance and inference. I don't always like what I read and hear, but I am awed by Hitchens' adroit use of language, quickness on his feet, and a razor-sharp command of rhetoric as an artform.

I'm not clear whether Normblog picks up his "Writer's Choice" content from other sources or if the individuals are accommodating enough to furnish original material for the series, in which well-known writers elaborate on books that were formative in their own development. In any case, the blogmaster is on to something good, and this morning's piece on Hitchens is worth a look.

Hitchens remembers How Green Was My Valley. Do not for a moment be misled by whatever mental images you may have from that old black and white classic film. There is more in the book than meets the eye (or the screen).

The cover of that paperback, which lived on long after the actual pages had turned to confetti, may have had something to do with it. It depicted a family in shawls and clogs, with some sort of hilly yet industrial landscape in the background, and it had a slogan or some other superscription which described it as 'the enduring best-seller of the war years', or a form of words very like that at any rate. I had been born in 1949 and in my neck of the woods a novel about 'the war years' should have had at the very least a portrait of Winston Churchill somewhere on its cover, or a patch of ocean corresponding to the Battle of the Atlantic (The Cruel Sea, by Nicholas Monserrat, being the only other novel of remotely comparable length that I had got by heart).

Don't cheat yourself out of reading the rest.

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