By Christopher Hitchens
Twelve; 435 pages
Christopher Hitchens is the sort of hard-drinking, compulsively controversial man of letters who doesn't much exist anymore. Which is too bad, because that ilk unquestionably enlivens the literary scene. In four decades of prolific output, Hitchens has reliably lived up to his intellectual forebears. He may not always be right, but when tackling subjects as varied as Princess Di and the Palestine question, he is almost always interesting. This time, Hitchens' subject is himself. And disappointingly, he has found the one topic he writes about hesitatingly, halfheartedly. Hitchens recounts his journey from the hardscrabble navy bases where he grew up to his education at Oxford (where he details at tedious length all the famous and destined-to-be-famous people he met) to his long, irregular career, including periods as committed '60s socialist and present-day neoconservative sympathizer. Articles like his enthusiastic defenses of the Iraq war and his routine takedowns of any public figure he perceives to be sanctimonious or feebleminded are Hitchens at his thought-provoking best. This book is not.