|Bloomsbury Academic Trade|
the guardian Fri 29 May 2009
The more sceptical and self-effacing of the Hitchens brothers here proposes a memoir-cum-jeremiad, tracing his own development from Trotskyist local reporter to Mail on Sunday columnist, and the general ballsing-up of his country, primarily by someone he comically insists on calling "Anthony Blair" (there is a regrettable slip into "Tony" on page 15), but also by previous governments both Tory and Labour. (A key term is "proper": what we need is "proper" conservatism, not Cameron's lot.) The best parts of the book are the vivid (and self-ironical) scenes of foreign reporting, such as an alarming visit to Vilnius in 1991, where Soviet forces massacred Lithuanian nationalists.
Hitchens is in general exhilaratingly good when attacking the hypocrisies and stupidities of specific individuals, but his own compass spins wildly out of control for the cultural generalisations. He whines, for instance, that "opinions on the morality of homosexual acts" are unjustly treated as homophobic. Well, such an "opinion" would presumably hold either a) that homosexual acts are morally good or at least neutral (in which case no charge of homophobia will be forthcoming); or b) that homosexual acts are morally wrong (but this claim just is homophobic, by definition). Still, Hitchens should at least be applauded for taking the trouble to provide an amusing index, a duty shirked by too many authors.