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'Letters to a Young Contrarian' is Christopher Hitchens' contribution to Art of Mentoring, a series published by Basic Books. This slim volume shows him at his quintessential best, inspiring future generations of radicals, gadflies, mavericks, rebels, and angry young men and offering them the wisdom of a seasoned campaigner. The book follows the format of Rainer Maria Rilke's 'Letters to a Young Poet,' and should be, even to the many readers who disagree with Hitchens, or find him overly polemical and brash, eminently readable. For Hitchens remains one of the greatest English language prose stylists, and few of his contemporaries can invest the written page with so much elegance, grace, and rhythm.
Publishers Weekly, 2001-09-17 Hitchens, a columnist for the Nation and Vanity Fair, and author, most recently, of The Trial of Henry Kissinger, has made a career of disagreement and dissent, of being the thorn in search of a side. "Only an open conflict of ideas and principles can produce any clarity," he observes. Hitchens's views, also part of the Art of Mentoring series (see Dershowitz, above), unfold in the form of an ongoing correspondence with an imaginary mentee whom he advises on modes of thought, argument and self-determination, on how to "live at an angle to the safety and mediocrity of consensus." The threats to free will are many, some predictable: establishment powers, the media, religious edicts, the manipulation of language, polls, labels, people with answers. Less obvious corrosives: the Dalai Lama, harmony, the New York Times claim to publish "all the news that's fit to print" ("conceited" and "censorious"). Indeed, the supply of enemies to rail against seems endless. Over a short span, Hitchens sounds off on a variety of topics irony, radicalism, anarchy, socialism, solitude, faith and humor, to name a few propelling readers through both time and space, from the Bible to Bosnia. At times, the argumentative positions seem offered up for their own sake which the author argues is justified and may inadvertently raise the question of how far we can define ourselves by what we are not. But this mini-manifesto, despite the somewhat mountainous terrain, should provide readers interested in current events and anti-establishment philosophy with a clearer view into one of today's more restless and provocative minds. (Oct.) Forecast: Basic figures there are as many budding contrarians out there as there are budding lawyers. The house is launching the new Art of Mentoring series with a 75,000-copy first printing of both books. With good media coverage (both authors will tour), Dershowitz's name and Hitchens's prickly reputation, both books should do well. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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