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Letters to a Young Contrarian Christopher Hitchens has made a career of disagreeing in profound and entertaining ways. While bemoaning the loss of the skills of dialectical thinking evident in contemporary society, he aims to inspire future generations of intellectuals, mavericks, rebels, angry young (wo)men and dissidents. Full description


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The ensuing pages represent my tentative acceptance of a challenge that was made to me in the early months of the year 2000. Lire la première page
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Couverture | Copyright | Extrait | Quatrième de couverture
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119 internautes sur 122 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
An Education in Itself. 16 avril 2005
Par Bernard Chapin - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
It's easy to forget sometimes, based on the flair and panache he exudes on the television screen, just how educated Christopher Hitchens actually is. In this book, you'll be treated to a lifetime's worth of insight and scholarship as he provides the reader with some of the best citations you'll ever come across, including, "Here I stand I can do no other" by Martin Luther.

Hitchens is a contrarian but these Letters will appeal to anyone as they are the celebration of the mind via reason. When he first heard "the personal is political," he knew it was poison and he rails against the emotional approach to deciding issues in these pages. I am very glad he did. I couldn't help but think what I've thought about him so many times, "This is such a brave man."

Regardless of what one believes regarding his arguments and positions, the author always puts forth sound rationale for why he thinks the way he does. His critique of conformists is absolutely precious and I would be only too happy to give this book to any young person. It's an education in itself.
86 internautes sur 91 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Reviewers need to read the book 6 mars 2004
Par Christian J. Bechtel - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
Two criticisms of this book have been 1. it does not address practical topics of todays politics and 2. Hitchens has a large ego and wants to be Gore Vidal. What is truly inspiring about this book is that it is not an argument on current affairs. You can get this from a newspaper. I find Hitchens fascinating because he is one of the few writers who courageously tries to change how you think and not just your opinion on an issue. In fact Hitchens states that "how" and not "what" you think is what is truly important.
As for point number 2 regarding Gore Vidal and the authors ego I have no idea where this comment comes from in fact the Hitchens is self-deprecating in several parts of the book.
I have read the book three times now and to me it is a concise and powerful argument for why we need people who are what Hitchens calls "apart" (think differently). In fact my favorite part of the book is a discussion around the folly in trying to create consensus. You always need a cadre of strong viewpoints to reach a good decision.
When reading some reviews I wonder if readers have read the book or have simply pigeonholed Hitchen's work and want to discredit him. I would highly recommend this book who sincerely wants to change how they think but people like this are few. As Hitchens points out many of our institutions, particularly religious institutions actually ask that you "check your intellect at the door" and listen to the wise person or book of wisdom. This subtle imposed ignorance keeps the masses in a haze but sufficienty free to do the bidding of its leaders, however, harmful they may be.
I see a great service that Hitchens offers us which is the constant questioning of the existence of any large institution in the world whether it be government, religous, or business.
64 internautes sur 68 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Timeless Advice - Not for the Fair Weather Patriot 29 janvier 2008
Par Stephen Williams - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché Achat vérifié
This is a simple and elegant series of letters written to a hypothetical student. Only a cynical could fail to admire and value Christopher Hitchens' "Letters to a Young Contrarian". This short book contains all the advice a student of twenty first century society should want or need. We get a marvelously unadulterated dose of the author's hortative aesthetics. Every letter is marked with a characteristic polish that creates a pedagogical elegance.

The book is written as a series of letters which are timely and timeless.

I bought this book as a gift for a young writer and journalist. I read it before giving it as a gift. I am very pleased with it as a gift and hope that the advice falls on fertile soil. I am also very pleased with the book as advice for my own personal causes.

These letters continue to be a priceless source of insight and wisdom as the student continues to evolve as an activist. We can all see ourselves in these wonderful words and we can witness what we aspire to be.

These letters fill the reader with hope. There is hope that society can evolve to a rational enlightenment. Hope is alive and we are not doomed to repeat all the follies of history.

What impressed me so much was the incredible precision and care in each of the letters. The commitment to explore the unconventional and contrary positions is a commitment to personal integrity. This commitment is a social contract that is a prerequisite to democracy and to civilization.

The author's choice of examples and counter examples clearly illustrate his intention to inspire the next generation of social thinkers.

I highly recommend this book to every person who wants to become an agent of change. It will probably be more useful to aspiring journalists, scientists, mathematicians and writers. People who simply enjoy the wonder of reasoned inquiry will delight in the book also.

The advice can hardly be paraphrased with any justice to the subject in a short review. For the most part, the author be gives advice about being eternally vigilant and persistent in the face of unrelenting opposition. There is no limit to human anti-intellectualism so there must be no limit to reason. Patiently embrace the struggle and make it your own. Understand that the sources of irrationality and prejudice are petty, private, archaic and primeval urges.

All of these things he discusses with incredible wisdom and lucidity. The author centers, assures and illuminates the student.

What a delight this book turned out to be. Buy a copy of this book for every young person you care about. They can read it again and again to gain insight and create a purposeful life. Some young people will cynically dismiss the relevance of the message, but no one who reads it can miss the message. Life on autopilot, accepting standards and norms without reason, is to life without human purpose.

Even the most cynical alive person can give pause to enjoy this wonderful collection of sweepingly thought provoking letters.

The author says to "Do justice, and let the skies fall." This leads to a calling of confrontation, argument, and troublemaking. The author advocates a life of being perpetually at odds with the mainstream. "Humanity is very much in debt to such people."

I highly recommend this book.
30 internautes sur 33 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Timeless Advice - Not for the Fair Weather Patriot 19 novembre 2007
Par Stephen Williams - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié Achat vérifié
This is a simple and elegant series of letters written to a hypothetical student. Only a cynical could fail to admire and value Christopher Hitchens' "Letters to a Young Contrarian". This short book contains all the advice a student of twenty first century society should want or need. We get a marvelously unadulterated dose of the author's hortative aesthetics. Every letter is marked with a characteristic polish that creates a pedagogical elegance.

The book is written as a series of letters which are timely and timeless.

I bought this book as a gift for a young writer and journalist. I read it before giving it as a gift. I am very pleased with it as a gift and hope that the advice falls on fertile soil. I am also very pleased with the book as advice for my own personal causes.

These letters continue to be a priceless source of insight and wisdom as the student continues to evolve as an activist. We can all see ourselves in these wonderful words and we can witness what we aspire to be.

These letters fill the reader with hope. There is hope that society can evolve to a rational enlightenment. Hope is alive and we are not doomed to repeat all the follies of history.

What impressed me so much was the incredible precision and care in each of the letters. The commitment to explore the unconventional and contrary positions is a commitment to personal integrity. This commitment is a social contract that is prerequisite to democracy and to civilization.

The author's choice of examples and counter examples clearly illustrate his intention to inspire the next generation of social thinkers.

I highly recommend this book to every person who wants to become an agent of change. It will probably be more useful to aspiring journalists, scientists, mathematicians and writers. People who simply enjoy the wonder of reasoned inquiry will delight in the book also.

The advice can hardly be paraphrased with any justice to the subject in a short review. For the most part, the author be gives advice about being eternally vigilant and persistent in the face of unrelenting opposition. There is no limit to human anti-intellectualism so there must be no limit to reason. Patiently embrace the struggle and make it your own. Understand that the sources of irrationality and prejudice are petty, private, archaic and primeval urges.

All of these things he discusses with incredible wisdom and lucidity. The author centers, assures and illuminates the student.

What a delight this book turned out to be. Buy a copy of this book for every young person you care about. They can read it again and again to gain insight and create a purposeful life. Some young people will cynically dismiss the relevance of the message, but no one who reads it can miss the message. Life on autopilot, accepting standards and norms without reason, is to life without human purpose.

Even the most cynical alive person can give pause to enjoy this wonderful collection of sweepingly thought provoking letters.

The author says to "Do justice, and let the skies fall." This leads to a calling of confrontation, argument, and troublemaking. The author advocates a life of being perpetually at odds with the mainstream. "Humanity is very much in debt to such people."

I highly recommend this book.
21 internautes sur 23 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
The standard bearer for independent thinking 31 mars 2003
Par Dan A Staringer - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
It is hard to imagine many people giving unqualified support to Hitchens. He seems to relish the role of a contrarian. Lately, many on the Left have looked at him as a sellout. The Left icily received his condemnation of Clinton. His strong support of the intervention in Afghanistan after 9/11 labeled him as more hawk than dove. Yet, he is despised even more so by conservatives and especially by those in institutional power such as church leaders. His criticism of the Left is more than liberals wish, however his rebuke of the right is acrid. He has no love lost of tribe, religion, insular society, or politics that wrap themselves in the cloak of secrecy, security or jingoistic attitudes designed to promote sectarian action. Hitchens is his own man, a free thinker who uses his independence and intelligence to follow his instincts, his teachings and his sense of history. It is almost impossible to read his books, essays or articles without rallying around some aspect of his thoughts and simultaneously wringing your hands at something else that is seemingly absurd. Hitchens would not want it any other way. Those who wish dissension and division removed from the earth, he argues, have no idea that the alternative would be a boring, tedious world that many would wish to change even quicker.
In `Letters' Hitchens adopts the role of mentor to the next generation of radicals and revolutionaries. Before chastising him as a promoter of reactionary, knee-jerk radicalism, it is important to understand that his definition of radical and revolutionary is steeped in the belief that a responsible citizen has the right and indeed the duty to challenge conventional thinking and wisdom. He cites the time-honored fable of the boy and the unclothed emperor to argue this approach. Without a critical populous to check the decisions and thinking of those in power, society runs dangerously close to tyranny and fascism.
Many people look upon critics such as Hitchens as people who can never do anything. They can only tear down, destroy. This view is baldly simplistic and shows an abject ignorance of the role of the critic. If something is working well, there is no need to expound upon its virtue. The role of the critic is to change. The critic's energy must be channeled towards improving that which he views as broken.
Hitchens gives models to follow in pursuit of a true independent, critical life. He writes of the unpopular positions taken by people such as Emile Zola in his defense of Albert Dreyfuss to underscore the benefits of the principled stand. He lambastes the tendency of the uninformed to settle their views based on feelings rather than ideas. He scours the church and other institutions for applying narrow thoughts to a broad following.
Throughout the book, Hitchens cites the words of a myriad of authors. Some have labeled this as Hitchen's own unhealthy elitism but I think he has a nobler goal in mind. He is stressing the argument that the educated mind is the only proper mind. It is only through reading that we can unshackle the limits imposed by governments, regimes and those who would wish to impose ideas that may have a following in the emotional district, but fail when challenged with a logical, historical and educated defense. Unfortunately, we all too often cling to ideas that haven't been vetted against rigorous review.
I like Hitchens words. I don't like Hitchens words. This may be the finest commendation I can give him. He challenges me to break from political orthodoxy and view my world through a more independent lens. This is quite a challenge. Not everyone wishes to expend the energy necessary to walk this less traveled trail. However, I adhere to Frost's less-traveled road. It's a bit frightening. It's also honorable. And correct.
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