I started this book last night (12/16/11) and passively made a comment to my husband about it because he seems to be more up-to-date on world events and journalists than I am and I figured he would know who Christopher Hitchens was and possibly a bit about him; he told me that Christopher Hitchens had just died.
It was somewhat macabre reading considering his preface is about his illness and apologetic for the death discussion in the first chapter. And then of course, the first chapter deals with his own thoughts on mortality and the second chapter his mother's suicide.
I'm about 30% of the way through (hoping to finish tomorrow), but I have a few thoughts.
I like his tone and am impressed by his thought processes. He has some well placed quips, but overall the book is tedious and detail-ridden. It is a memoir that is written in part like a bad novel (I mean really, does anyone remember those precise details from 30-40 years ago). He blatantly name-drops for 20-30 page stretches (boring), and so far anyway it is much too political for me (which I realize is probably my own shortcoming and that I am not the intended audience).
I like his Junta (two faced) description of his life and his work; I enjoy the irony that his mother so dearly wanted him to be an English gentleman (and he so thoroughly didn't want to be), but that he is in fact a "good old boy" in the modern sense. Precisely because of his name drops we understand that he is well-connected and successful in exactly the way his mom would have wanted. So far his description of the English public school meshes with other readings (obviously as a female American I have no personal experience here), but was entertaining and surprisingly much more graphic and open about homosexual acts (not persons as he uses Vidal's definition) than I had previously suspected.
60% done. I feel like I'm getting a poly sci lesson, but it's probably well deserved. My respect for Hitchens is growing and I do realize that he actually knows all the name-drops. Certainly he is well enough connected that he doesn't need to do it superficially as I first thought. Still it is overwritten and too detailed. I would have preferred (in a memoir) a little more personal reaction to things and a bit less textbook/historical context; but he was a journalist, not a novelist.
And the last third finally was personal. He talked about and justified his own changing position from extreme leftist (I won't call him a radical per his dis-like of the term) to pro-war to evict both Saddam and Milosevic. Certainly he is well spoken (does that apply to the written word) and I do feel like I've learned alot, but I wouldn't call it a great read.