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Unacknowledged Legislation: Writers in the Public Sphere

3.97  ·  Rating Details ·  196 Ratings  ·  16 Reviews
A celebration of Percy Shelley’s assertion that ‘poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world’, these thirty-plus essays on writers from Oscar Wilde to Salman Rushdie dispel the myth of politics as a stone tied to the neck of literature; Norman Podhoretz’s ‘bloody crossroads’. Instead Hitchens argues that when all parties in the state were agreed on a matter, it w ...more
Paperback, 430 pages
Published January 1st 2002 by Verso (first published 2000)
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Sep 04, 2012 Lobstergirl rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: banditos
Shelves: own, covers
I found that I like Hitchens best as a literary critic, reviewing really shitty authors like Tom Clancy.

But on another note, he needed to cut back on his Latin and French epigrams. I suppose people who graduated Oxbridge in the 60s and 70s knew their Latin and French, but people no longer do. Or even when they do it just seems phony. How many times do we need to hear plus anglais que les anglais?

There's also a careless error, one many others in the media also made out of sheer laziness. Hitchens
Oct 07, 2008 Mr. rated it really liked it
Christopher Hitchens synthesizes his daunting knowledge of politics with his love of fine literature and letters in Unacknowledged Legislation, arguably his best collection of essays to date. Hitchens seeks to bridge the gap between art and politics through a critical review of the major English-speaking author's political views in the 20th century. Perhaps this critical effort could be construed as showboating as Hitchens' profession is political journalism, and this is one of his few collectio ...more
Alex Sarll
A collection of Hitch's writing about writers - though you wouldn't know that from the blurb of the edition I read, which carefully avoids disabusing potential readers of the notion that they are picking up a single, coherent book. This was a problem in so far as I initially put it in my bag for the week, and then ran straight into several pieces on Wilde which repeated key ideas and quotes - but they were all very good pieces in themselves, and the rest of the book avoids quite so much overlap. ...more
Feb 14, 2008 Matt rated it really liked it

Hitchen's writing takes center stage here, not so much polemic or political activism.

He's an aesthete, dontcha know, and he digs into some of the canonical writers of his lifetime- Oscar Wilde, Gore Vidal, Anthony Powell, Fitzgerald, Wodehouse, on and on.

What makes this book valuable is his wit and the gracefullness that he brings to the page. He's retained quite a bit of the British way of elegance and understatement, as well as the cutting critical eye and the droll sense of humor.

To read thes
Tyler Malone
Feb 13, 2013 Tyler Malone rated it really liked it
The French and Latin phrases stop the prose dead, which is a shame. For his skepticism, one would think that Hitchens would have hated if or when he heard preachers speak Greek to their sheep, so why do the equivalent of that to bookish sheep?

That really is the only complaint, honestly. Even essays about Orwell or Wodehouse biographers are worth reading and contain a great of lines worth underlining, which is how you know a literary critics is worth reading and committing to memory.

Good book, re
One of the best essay collections by Christopher Hitchens, a skeptical wit of great power who was lost far too soon. This is the best set of literary/political essays written in the last few decades, excepting the work of the untouchable Gore Vidal, who is lovingly considered twice in this book (this was written and published before the Hitchens-Vidal falling out). Oddly, this book is one of Hitchens least famous books, but I can't recommend its crystalline, Orwellian political eye and penetrati ...more
Decided I needed a little more intellectual ambition. And heard Christopher Hutcheons on NPR podcast and he was extremely articulate, so I was intrigued.
Mark Nenadov
Aug 19, 2016 Mark Nenadov rated it liked it
As I began to read this book, my expectations were pretty high. Christopher Hitchens is a great writer and a witty literary critic. I was slightly underwhelmed, though.

All of these essays have previously appeared in publications such as Vanity Fair. If you've read a good chunk of Hitchens' published articles, you'll probably have already read the most worthwhile essays featured here.

There isn't much middle ground with this book, the essays tend to be either sheer genius or tediously uninterestin
Ernest Nabokov
Mar 17, 2016 Ernest Nabokov rated it it was amazing
Verso's publishing of a collection of Hitchens' essays in early 2000 was the last dealing the company ever had with the contrarian. This collection is not so much literary criticism as it is political essay writing on matters related to literature - akin to Perry Anderson. In fact, the Anderson comparison is apt because both were/are marxists, both write in olympian fashion - blow the reader with their sheer breadth of knowledge as opposed to their actual argument - and they belong to a traditio ...more
A selection of essays focused on where & how the literary meets the political/historical. Hitchens makes remarkably ironic and humorous observations on a wide range of people and topics... such as Oscar Wilde, Philip Larkin (i.v. "Something about the Poems"), ebonics (ironic to now see him call Chomsky a 'trusted friend'), plagiarism, Rushdie, Kipling, Anthony Powell, and he scathingly reviews the likes of Tom Wolfe, Norman Podhoretz, Tom Clancy, T.S. Eliot and Conor Cruise O'Brien--this fin ...more
Jan 23, 2009 Leendert rated it it was amazing
brilliant guy, this ... you don't want to be tom clancy while hitchens is on the planet. nonetheless, someone decided to be and paid for it. maybe i'll give one of his other books a try again, since i tried a number of them and found him insufferable. this collection, though, was just truly awe-inspiring for, if nothing else, their verbal acuity. i don't own another book as much dog-eared as this one now is.

Sep 01, 2013 Blair rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This book is an excellent and unforgiving argument for the connection between fiction/literature and cultural sensibilities, especially as they pertain to politics. Hitchens takes issue with the "need" to separate the two, and makes a refreshingly straightforward case. His essay on Williams and Orwell is fantastic.

Jan 05, 2012 Craig rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 5-star-books
If the essay misses the mark, the prose elevates it. If the prose misses the mark, the essay elevates it. Any which way, this is an excellent collection that awakens the inkling that the Islamofacism/atheism Hitchens might actually have been less gifted than the book reviewer/cultural essayist Hitchens.
Oct 28, 2008 severyn rated it really liked it
Excellent writing on subjects I knew something about, curiously unengaging on subjects I knew nothing about. I can't decide if that's my fault or Hitchens'.
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Christopher Eric Hitchens was an English-born American author, journalist and literary critic. He was a contributor to Vanity Fair, The Atlantic, World Affairs, The Nation, Slate, Free Inquiry and a variety of other media outlets. Hitchens was also a political observer, whose best-selling books — the most famous being God Is Not Great — made him a staple of talk shows and lecture circuits. He was ...more
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“A melancholy lesson of advancing years is the realisation that you can't make old friends.” 17 likes
“In our native terms, the ironic style is often compounded with the sardonic and the hard-boiled; even the effortlessly superior. But irony originates in the glance and the shrug of the loser, the outsider, the despised minority. It is a nuance that comes most effortlessly to the oppressed.” 4 likes
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