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"P.S. I would like to start with 'The Myths' by Robert Graves."
October 12, 2011 4:40 PM   Subscribe

Christopher Hitchens responds to a nine-year-old's question: "What books should I read?"
posted by overeducated_alligator (92 comments total) 42 users marked this as a favorite

 
People act like Hitchens is some kind of monster. I met him after a show he did, and though he didn't suffer fools gladly he seemed warm and genuine.

The world is a better place with him in it, and this girl proves the future is in good hands.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 4:45 PM on October 12, 2011 [9 favorites]


This is lovely. Thank you.
posted by Fizz at 4:45 PM on October 12, 2011


heh. P.G. Woodhouse. Excellent.
posted by GuyZero at 4:49 PM on October 12, 2011


People act like Hitchens is some kind of monster.

I don't think he's some kind of monster. But he is basically a professional insult comic who happens not to be very funny. So it's hard to blame the people he insults for not liking him much, even (or especially) when a large percentage of his insults happen to be true.
posted by The World Famous at 4:56 PM on October 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


People act like Hitchens is some kind of monster.

I don't think he's some kind of monster. But he is basically a professional insult comic who happens not to be very funny. So it's hard to blame the people he insults for not liking him much, even (or especially) when a large percentage of his insults happen to be true.


He's usually right. And when he's wrong, he expects other people to have the same integrity he does and engage and debate him in good faith.

One of my biggest regrets is turning down an invite to 3am Yum Cha with him and Tony Jones.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 5:01 PM on October 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


One of my biggest regrets is turning down an invite to 3am Yum Cha with him and Tony Jones.

That's probably one of my biggest regrets, too.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 5:02 PM on October 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


The Yum Cha was sub par.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 5:04 PM on October 12, 2011


He's usually right.

Yes, I agree that his is usually right. I mean, I haven't done any sort of actual statistical analysis to determine exactly how often I think he's right. But I'd say it's more often than not.

And even though I am certain that he and I strongly disagree about a few things that he tends to go on and on about, I would love to have a conversation with him and I have no doubt that it would be an enjoyable and civil one.
posted by The World Famous at 5:05 PM on October 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


No offense, but that reads like a book list for an eight-year-old compiled by a guy who hasn't spent a lot of time with eight-year-olds. And considering that Hitchens has kids, that's kind of damning.
People act like Hitchens is some kind of monster.
I don't think he's a monster, but I do think he's an asshole.
posted by craichead at 5:05 PM on October 12, 2011 [14 favorites]


And in case anyone doesn't make it down to the very bottom of the post, here's his list:
Hitchens’ list of books and authors: Dawkins’ Magic of Reality, Greek and Roman myths, particularly those compiled by Robert Graves, anything satirical, all of Shakespeare, Geoffrey Chaucer, Ayaan Hirsi Ali (author of Infidel and Nomad: From Islam to America: A Personal Journey Through the Clash of Civilizations), PG Wodehouse (“for fun”), David Hume, and Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities.
posted by craichead at 5:13 PM on October 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


The other side has their share of assholes and demagogues, and people who can get a good laugh from the faithful at the expense of the Godless Heathens. Millions of preachers who can rile up a crowd, piss off everyone else, and call for crusades. Why can't our side have a few? Just because we're rational doesn't mean everything has to be learned and civilized. There's a place for the Hitchens and the Maher's up front. At that Hitch show at the Opera House it felt freeing, because we were all together behind one cause. Hitch may have scored some easy points, but it felt refreshing.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 5:13 PM on October 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


The other side has their share of assholes and demagogues, and people who can get a good laugh from the faithful at the expense of the Godless Heathens.
The other side of what? Of supporting the war in Iraq? Of thinking that women can't be funny, unless they're fat or Jewish? Hitchens is defined by his atheism these days, but he's been an asshole on a whole array of issues.
posted by craichead at 5:15 PM on October 12, 2011 [13 favorites]


Just because we're rational

Hey, now. Just because Hitchens is right about a lot of things and was nice to a little girl once doesn't mean we have to jump to the conclusion that he's rational.
posted by The World Famous at 5:16 PM on October 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


The big strike against Hitch in my opinion is his support for the Iraq war and the global war on terror generally. He seemed to like the idea of building a democratic middle east so much that it never occurred to him to ask if it was possible for the people advocating it to pull off.

Although it did lead to some interesting appearances on right wing TV after people assumed that since he'd bought into one aspect of the Republican world view, he'd bought into all the others.
posted by Grimgrin at 5:16 PM on October 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


"he expects other people to have the same integrity he does and engage and debate him in good faith."

Being insulting and dismissive is a strange way to show "good faith" in a discourse.

Also, that list was pretty great.
posted by oddman at 5:16 PM on October 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


Regardless of my opinion of his opinions, the pictures of him now in the midst of treatment for cancer break my heart.

I like Bill Clinton's book list.
posted by ferdydurke at 5:19 PM on October 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


No offense, but that reads like a book list for an eight-year-old compiled by a guy who hasn't spent a lot of time with eight-year-olds. And considering that Hitchens has kids, that's kind of damning.

Not at all. He did something even more valuable. He let a little girl feel like her thoughts and her intellect, her individual being is important and worthwhile. Instead of dictating a shit load of stuff, he interacted with her and respected her humanity and worked with her on a small list of books.

The best children's librarians will do this sort of thing, and it just goes to show that he knows how to get through to kids, and has kids, but obviously practices humanism, that he let that little girl not be degraded or drowned out in their exchange.
posted by Skygazer at 5:20 PM on October 12, 2011 [15 favorites]


Ha! I was in love with Graves's The Greek Myths when I was 10. Excellent recommendation.
posted by homunculus at 5:25 PM on October 12, 2011 [5 favorites]


I got a kick out this part:
I jumped in and explained that we are trying to convince Mason that she is a child and can make up her mind later. We just want her to be a critical thinker for now.
In the context of the rest of the story, that bit made me want to smack my head on my desk.
posted by The World Famous at 5:27 PM on October 12, 2011


In the context of the rest of the story, that bit made me want to smack my head on my desk.

Why? She can remain a critical thinker, while still getting parental guidance.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:29 PM on October 12, 2011


Yeah, that's really odd to me. I don't believe that most eight-year-olds can understand Hume, but I absolutely think they can know whether they believe in God or not. And what's with the idea that she has to wait until she's a grown-up to decide? It's not like once you commit you can't change your mind.
posted by craichead at 5:31 PM on October 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Why? She can remain a critical thinker, while still getting parental guidance.

Imagine the story being exactly the same, but the parents are devoted Christians taking their daughter to see, I don't know, pick a prominent, outspoken, religious figure who would speak at an event with the Christian equivalent of what is described in that article as "approximately one thousand hardcore atheists." Imagine every detail of the story being exactly the same but with the subject matter of the daughter's enthusiasm being Christianity, Christian arguments, and a Christian public figure.

Then imagine that same sentence in the article.

Now do you get it?
posted by The World Famous at 5:33 PM on October 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


Hell, I have a problem with Hume and I'm 38. However, let's not sell this little girl short. Let her decide what she can't handle.
posted by josher71 at 5:34 PM on October 12, 2011


No offense, but that reads like a book list for an eight-year-old compiled by a guy who hasn't spent a lot of time with eight-year-olds. And considering that Hitchens has kids, that's kind of damning.

Hitchens had a brief conversation with a kid, and suggested some books (with inputs from onlookers) to that specific kid. That is all that actually happened.
posted by vidur at 5:36 PM on October 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


I think I had a copy of Graves' myths when I was 8 or 10 or so, but I didn't like it as much as Edith Hamilton's "Mythology." I think it was just that, at that age, as a kid in suburban Kansas City, I hadn't encountered enough British English to follow along with Graves. Hamilton, I could grasp.

Around the same time, my parents bought me a complete works of Shakespeare because I'd expressed interest. Any eight year old who can actually READ Shakespeare has my deepest admiration. For years I hid my shame that whenever I tried, I just didn't get it. I understand why now, though - my mother bought me a cheap-ass edition with NO footnotes, no endnotes, no definitions of archaic words, no introductions or summaries or anything. It was just the bare text, crammed into two columns per page (when lines were too long, the extra words got stuffed into the bare space above the lines, in brackets!) There was nothing to help me, and left to flounder, I failed. (I still have that volume, actually. But whenever I want to actually read Shakespeare, I buy some other copy of the specific play I want.)
posted by dnash at 5:41 PM on October 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


The kid had already read the bible, so the #1 atheist-creating book was already covered.
posted by benzenedream at 5:43 PM on October 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


Hitchens had a brief conversation with a kid, and suggested some books (with inputs from onlookers) to that specific kid. That is all that actually happened.

And yet, here you are talking about it. Funny how that happens.

I like that he mentioned some books that the kid would be a few years away from appreciating. Treating children like adults who are shorter than you is one of the kindest things you can do. I bet the kid will hang on to that list and get through it all in the next 6 or 7 years.
posted by auto-correct at 5:44 PM on October 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


Mason Crumpacker is a name of piercing cromulence.

That is all.
posted by Sebmojo at 5:47 PM on October 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


Of course Hitchins isn't perfect. Who is? That said, I thought this was still extremely heartwarming. And real.

Thanks very much for posting.
posted by Chairboy at 5:51 PM on October 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hitchens had a brief conversation with a kid, and suggested some books (with inputs from onlookers) to that specific kid. That is all that actually happened.

And yet, here you are talking about it. Funny how that happens.


Hitchens is a "notable person". There is nothing funny or wrong with talking about what he did at a public event.

What is strange is that he is being damned for something he didn't do at all. He treated a young kid like an adult, and by all accounts, had a nice, respectful conversation with her. Prompted by her question, and with some comments from onlookers, he suggested some books to her. I don't see any indications that he recommended books that all 8-year old kids should read. So, pardon me if I find the insinuation that Hitchens is a bad parent ("considering that Hitchens has kids, that's kind of damning") worthy of being called out as inaccurate.
posted by vidur at 5:53 PM on October 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


This is lovely. Thank you.
posted by Fizz at 6:45 PM on October 12

Indeed, lovely.
posted by nola at 5:57 PM on October 12, 2011


None of his recommendations are bad books, per se, but taken together, they constitute a curriculum for a finishing school that turns out stuffy middlebrow neoconservative Englishmen. She'd be better off with an anthology of Hitchens' early essays.
posted by wwwwwhatt at 6:06 PM on October 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


I don't think an eight-year-old can be religious in the same way that an eight-year-old can't be in a genuine romantic relationship. It's going through motions based on what you think it is or is supposed to be, without actually genuinely experiencing it.
posted by maxwelton at 6:07 PM on October 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


People act like Hitchens is some kind of monster.

He is not a monster, but he is a bully and not nearly the genius he thinks he is. He inevitably falls back on bluster and aggression when he senses he is losing an argument on intellectual grounds, and that's distasteful.

Yet people still seem to find what he has to say -- at great, offputting length -- interesting. So it goes.

Perfectly useless. Do you contribute anything other than unfunny snark?

Taking lessons from Hitchens, are we? IRFH is a Fine, Funny Mefight of The First Order.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:20 PM on October 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


And plays a mean third base for the MeFi softball team.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 6:21 PM on October 12, 2011


I don't think an eight-year-old can be religious in the same way that an eight-year-old can't be in a genuine romantic relationship.
According to the mother, her daughter self-identified as a "freethinker" and said she wanted to be a great freethinker when she grew up, and she, the mother, "jumped in and explained that we are trying to convince Mason that she is a child and can make up her mind later." And that's kind of bullshit. If she wants to identify as a freethinker, she should be able to identify as a freethinker. There's nothing about being a child that should disqualify one from giving oneself that label.

That still doesn't mean she's right now going to enjoy reading Hume, Chaucer, or Aayan Hirsi Ali.

(I'm probably being unfair to Hitchens a little bit, because he was put on the spot. I'm trying to come up with a list of good children's books for a budding free-thinker, and it's not easy. I'm sure I could do it if I had some time, but he didn't have any time to think about it. But it's not like Hitchens has ever given a damn about being fair to anyone, so I'm ok with that.)
posted by craichead at 6:21 PM on October 12, 2011


That was wonderful. Thanks.
posted by koeselitz at 6:22 PM on October 12, 2011


He inevitably falls back on bluster and aggression when he senses he is losing an argument on intellectual grounds, and that's distasteful.

I'm not sure I've seen him lose an argument, but my own bias probably makes that hard for me to see.

He does tend to fall back on being very English at times though. But we Americans fucking love English people being all Englishy. That shit sells.
posted by Chekhovian at 6:22 PM on October 12, 2011


I rejected God and religion when I was 10. If I'd had some intellectual grounding I might have spent less time being smug.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 6:23 PM on October 12, 2011


Actually I had a book of illustrated myths growing up. I'm sure it was less erudite than whatever Hitchens suggested, but I think it was something that helped me along toward my Atheism. You read about all these gods doing this and that, and how no one believes in them any more, well kids are smart enough to extrapolate..."If all of these gods ever thought of before by all previous religions are clearly superstitious BS, then hmmmmm makes me wonder about the current gods".

I would suspect that strong fundi-christians aren't keen on the teaching of old myths, but probably not out of fear that it will lead their kids to atheism, probably their fear is satanism.
posted by Chekhovian at 6:28 PM on October 12, 2011


I'm surprised at the eclectisim and ambition of the reading list. It must be a long term program, since much of it is completely over the head of an 8 year old, no matter how bright.

I set myself projects like reading Shakespeare when I was 9, and I don't think I got much out of it at all. It was just too hard to understand what was going on, on multiple levels. I didn't even get the sex jokes!

I'd give to a bright 9-year old, from the canon, oh, Plato "Apology", maybe some Dickens, some short stories by Chekov. Short but challenging stuff, not written in blank verse.
posted by thelonius at 6:31 PM on October 12, 2011


Actually I had a book of illustrated myths growing up.

If you are mentioning d'Aulaires, it's mind transforming at any age.
posted by ovvl at 6:47 PM on October 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


Under the Dewey system, the Greek (and their Roman copycat) myth books are usually in the first or second bookcase in the 290s and a lot of grade school kids begin their love of learning with those great stories of heroic feats and the mischievous capricious Gods on Mt. Olympus. I definitely couldn't get enough of them in third grade.

It's great storytelling and it grounds kids on classical motifs and the hero quest, and I hope that doesn't get lost in all the e-book fad (the 8 track tape of the naughts) stuff.
posted by Skygazer at 7:20 PM on October 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


that doesn't get lost in all the e-book fad

Please try an ereader before you condemn them. They don't have to entirely replace real books, but for travel, for reading in bed*, for beach reading...OMG they are the best thing ever. Plus you obtain the books instantly, for money or for free.

*You know when you read in bed and you start out on your back and hold up the book with both hands and it gets tiresome, then you roll on your side and its hard to turn pages, then you lay on your stomach and your neck gets sore?

Ereaders solve this problem. Just lay on your side with the reader on the bed next to you...most comfortable reading ever.
posted by Chekhovian at 7:28 PM on October 12, 2011 [6 favorites]


You know when you read in bed and you start out on your back and hold up the book with both hands and it gets tiresome, then you roll on your side and its hard to turn pages, then you lay on your stomach and your neck gets sore?

Truer words were never spoken.

I also do this with my iPad. just lock orientation and lay on your side.
posted by flippant at 7:56 PM on October 12, 2011


I was hoping that he would have provided a more kid-like list, like books by Judy Blume or Gordan Korman or even Mordechai Richler's Jacob TwoTwo and the Hooded Fang.

Just because it's heartening to see an smart, intellectual adult have a child-like side to him or her.

But I guess this was a smart young lady and these were the books for her.

I was a pretty dumb kid at 8. I liked Archie comics.

True story though - When I was that age, I was at a bookstore, and I had some money to spend on a book. I wanted to impress the cashier for some reason, so I picked out and paid for the most page-filled, intelligent book I could find - Don Quixote. I never made it past the preface and felt like a sucker becuase I spent money for nothing.

30 years later and I still have the book. I did finally get around to reading it but only last year.
I also have a few copies of Archies as well
posted by bitteroldman at 8:04 PM on October 12, 2011


Hitchens is such a fucking dick for not emitting an airtight custom canon on demand.
posted by rhizome at 8:05 PM on October 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


Oh he's definitely a dick, I reckon. But not for that, particularly.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 8:15 PM on October 12, 2011


After one chapter of the last real book I bought (DFW's Pale King), I reconsidered and also bought the e-book version. The Kindle is so much easier to hold over my head, or on the side, or to carry in my bag. The hardcover is on my shelf. It's like a backup.

All print versions should come with free e-versions. I'd buy more books. We need a Steam bookstore.
posted by rokusan at 8:53 PM on October 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


ferdydurke: So Clinton read Nonzero? That's fucking awesome.
posted by Chekhovian at 9:39 PM on October 12, 2011


Well I like the man. Screw you guys.
posted by Bonzai at 9:48 PM on October 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


Well I like the man. Screw you guys.

What makes you think we don't like him?
posted by The World Famous at 9:50 PM on October 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well I like the man

Me too brother. Have you seen his debate with Blair? Fantastic (well, as usual).
posted by Chekhovian at 12:09 AM on October 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Have you ever seen this video? That's some piercing wit and razor-sharp logic there.
posted by craichead at 4:05 AM on October 13, 2011


I wouldn't want a kid that young to know who Christopher Hitchens is. Best to preserve the innocence of youth.
posted by Yakuman at 5:12 AM on October 13, 2011


At the age of eight I was an unshakeable atheist. I was also an unshakeable Thatcherite. Luckily one of those two things changed.
posted by Summer at 5:28 AM on October 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


At what age is she supposed to be reading this stuff?

He was put on the spot and so the list is at the very least problematic. Graves is not the best exponent of Greek myths, Tale of Two Cities is the least Dickensian of Dickens' work, ALL of Shakespeare is too much for most adults, never mind children. Much of the rest, well, whatever, but not the stuff for an eight year old.

What struck me is that this at best semi-public encounter gets plastered on the internet at all. You say it's heartwarming, I say it's different from Toddlers in Tiaras in degree rather in kind. Why do this? Parental showing off, I expect, and some vague notion that it will help get her into a Good College.

Kind of creepy, really.
posted by IndigoJones at 6:54 AM on October 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


When I was eight, I enjoyed Astrid Lindgren's Pippi Longstocking books, Eleanor Cameron's Mushroom Planet books, and Hugh Lofting's Dr. Doolittle books.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 7:19 AM on October 13, 2011


not the stuff for an eight year old

It seems pretty clear that this list is intended to be more like "the books you should read by the time you're 18, to become a well read human being".

There are a about a dozen books on there right? Even if they were all light meaningless fluff, no eight year old can read that many in one year. That's crazy talk.
posted by Chekhovian at 8:11 AM on October 13, 2011


There are a about a dozen books on there right? Even if they were all light meaningless fluff, no eight year old can read that many in one year. That's crazy talk.

Is this sarcasm? I was reading a hell of a lot more than 12 books a year at age 8 (though I freely admit they were Narnia, Encyclopedia Brown, E.B. White and Hardy Boys, not David Hume.)
posted by Pater Aletheias at 9:42 AM on October 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hitch is great. I met him once, bought him a Johnny Walker Black (that always helped) and we had a short but pleasant chat. He was very willing to mingle, press the flesh and talk to punters at his talks/debates/events. I like the guy because he doesn't mince words, doesn't suffer fools gladly, calls a spade a spade (and bullshit bullshit); he's articulate, witty and mischievous. I don't agree with him about everything but those other qualities mean that that's perfectly okay.

We could do with a hell of a lot more like him and I will hold a minor personal wake when he inevitably succumbs to the cancer. It won't be bloody Johnny Walker Black though. He was as wrong about that as he was about the Iraq war.
posted by Decani at 9:49 AM on October 13, 2011


The World Famous: “What makes you think we don't like him?”

Oh, come on. "Basically a professional insult comic who happens not to be very funny?" I'm sure you like him, but you really can't blame anybody for coming to the conclusion that you don't.
posted by koeselitz at 9:52 AM on October 13, 2011


Imagine the story being exactly the same, but the parents are devoted Christians taking their daughter to see, I don't know, pick a prominent, outspoken, religious figure who would speak at an event with the Christian equivalent of what is described in that article as "approximately one thousand hardcore atheists." Imagine every detail of the story being exactly the same but with the subject matter of the daughter's enthusiasm being Christianity, Christian arguments, and a Christian public figure.

Then imagine that same sentence in the article.

Now do you get it?
posted by The World Famous at 1:33 AM on October 13


Here are some comments from Anne Crumpacker, Mason's mother, under Coyne's post:

Anne Crumpacker
Posted October 11, 2011 at 8:31 am | Permalink
Hitchens was too respectful to trash one of Mason’s favorite authors. Sometimes the goal is to get children to love reading and then gently introduce them to other choices. He listened to her first and respected her likes and dislikes. Then he modified his comments to her interests and aptitude.


Anne Crumpacker
Posted October 11, 2011 at 8:24 am | Permalink
I told Mason this morning that we are riding a tiger. We will need to be brave and not let go. She was asleep when I wrote the post. She read it this morning. She particularly liked the comparison to Socrates. She understood the reference fully. She said that Socrates was put to death for encouraging children to ask questions and their parents didn’t like it. She said that Socrates chose to drink the poison instead of stopping. Pretty close to correct. I explained that sometimes questions can be dangerous and that is why everyone is so interested. The image of Hitchens teaching an inquisitive little girl is to some people a pretty scary thing because she may end up thinking.

posted by Decani at 10:05 AM on October 13, 2011


koeselitz Oh, come on. "Basically a professional insult comic who happens not to be very funny?" I'm sure you like him, but you really can't blame anybody for coming to the conclusion that you don't.

That assessment's not related to liking or disliking him. It's just an observation of what Hitch does for a living. I'm not sure how anyone - liking him or not - can really disagree with the fact that his job is giving speeches and writing articles about how other people are terrible idiots. The man gets paid to travel around the world insulting people. He does so eloquently and often entertainingly. But, compared to actual comedians, he's not all that funny. Can anyone reasonably disagree with that assessment?

I guess I should have added to my statement that I have great admiration for him and have been inspired by his strength (in every sense) in his battle against cancer. I would love to sit down at a bar with him and talk. And I think his exchange with Mason Crumpacker regarding the reading list was really brilliant and shows a profound kindness and humility that is not often apparent in his work.

Decani, I'm not sure how your comment is a response to mine.
posted by The World Famous at 10:07 AM on October 13, 2011


I agree with Indigo Jones. No problem with the book list in general and it occurs to me that my 8 year old might love Wodehouse. But the mother is clearly just trying to get attention for how bright her daughter is and I find it annoying.
posted by cell divide at 11:15 AM on October 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Chekhovian: " Have you seen his debate with Blair? Fantastic"

An excerpt for those who haven't seen it yet.

I guess for me Hitchens is about the anti-theism more than anything else. Everything else just sort of slides by the side for me.
posted by Bonzai at 12:22 PM on October 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


An excerpt for those who haven't seen it yet.

It's a great video. He talks like an Aaron Sorkin screenplay. I'm always amazed at how many tautologies he can squeeze into just a few minutes of talking and how in tune he is with exactly which tautologies his audience will readily accept.
posted by The World Famous at 12:43 PM on October 13, 2011


A terribly british Sorkin screenplay you mean right? Or maybe an early David Mamet work without most of the swearing and done in an english accent?

Could you please educate me about the tautologies he squeezes into his few minutes? If you can find some in the excerpt Bonzai provided, that would be a convenient shared starting point.
posted by Chekhovian at 7:12 PM on October 13, 2011


Tell you what, you transcribe the clip and I'll highlight the tautologies.

But really, honestly, you can't spot them?
posted by The World Famous at 7:40 PM on October 13, 2011


Transcript!
posted by Chekhovian at 7:57 PM on October 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


That's going to be a giant comment if you really want me to paste it all in here.

So, really, honestly, can you tell me that you genuinely are totally incapable of identifying tautologies in that? You're asking me to do actual work here, based on the premise that you are not capable of identifying any tautologies in a speech by Christopher Hitchens.

My take on what you meant when you said: "Could you please educate me about the tautologies he squeezes into his few minutes? If you can find some in the excerpt Bonzai provided, that would be a convenient shared starting point." Was that you actually are being facetious, that you are, in fact, smart and educated enough to know what a tautology is and to have noticed them, and that you don't genuinely believe that there is not a single tautology in Hitchens' entire speech.

And if that's the case, as I suspect it is, then there's really no point in me going ahead and spending a bunch of time and effort doing what you facetiously suggested.

So before we go any further, can you state unequivocally and clearly that you truly, genuinely, are completely and utterly incapable of identifying even one single tautology in that entire speech?
posted by The World Famous at 8:04 PM on October 13, 2011


Before we do this we have to establish the first rule of Tautology Club.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 8:14 PM on October 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Dammit, villanelles at dawn, you already violated the first rule of Tautology Club.

Double dammit, so did I.
posted by The World Famous at 8:17 PM on October 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Actually you only violate the first rule of Tautology Club by violating the first rule of Tautology Club.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 8:18 PM on October 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yeah, that doesn't change the fact that, by violating the rule, you and I both engaged in rule violation.
posted by The World Famous at 8:34 PM on October 13, 2011


you are, in fact, smart and educated enough to know what a tautology is and to have noticed them

Maybe you're giving me too much credit. Educate me Professor TWF! Please find the only most pressing tautology out uttered by Hitchens in that debate. I really don't understand your criticism here. I'd say that Hitchen's prose style is widely considered excellent, at least to us american bumpkins that automatically judge british english as 10x better than its american cousin.

Maybe you're using the wrong term here. Perhaps your complaint is that Hitchens makes more or less the same objection to religion in different forms at different times through the debate, and that his points become redundant?

I could possibly agree with that, though I would have to study the text more carefully to truly determine it. If he does, it is just a symptom of how these religion debates always seem to have to happen, where the two sides mostly talk past each other and ignore the main arguments of the other side. If Hitchens repeats his points from time to time, its mostly to try to force his opponent to engage on a point on which he has previously denied engagement.
posted by Chekhovian at 9:15 PM on October 13, 2011


I considered joining Paradox Club, but the membership requirements were too lax.
posted by rokusan at 9:38 PM on October 13, 2011


Educate me Professor TWF!

You've got MeFiMail.

I'm not getting into a dumbass argument with you in this thread just because you're in the mood to fight.
posted by The World Famous at 9:41 PM on October 13, 2011


Gentlemen, you can't fight in here, this is the Tautology Room!
posted by villanelles at dawn at 9:43 PM on October 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


just because you're in the mood to fight

Dude, I'm always ready to throwdown :-) If you don't want your claims to be disputed, then don't make em.

Thanks for the memail, I'll line by line you once I'm done with some real work. Damn actual job.
posted by Chekhovian at 9:50 PM on October 13, 2011


Hitch would like this.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 9:57 PM on October 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hitch would like this.

Only if he likes this sort of thing.
posted by The World Famous at 10:06 PM on October 13, 2011


Luckily he's a founding member of the founding members club of Tautology Club.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 10:15 PM on October 13, 2011


villanelles, are you kidding around? or should we make this a three-way memail fest?
posted by Chekhovian at 10:20 PM on October 13, 2011


I don't see how we could make it a three-way memail fest unless we started sending festive memails three ways.
posted by The World Famous at 10:22 PM on October 13, 2011


If you're asking if I'm serious about whether Hitch would like this then yes, I'm sure he would appreciate the feistiness and dedication to debate.

If you're asking if I'm serious about whether he is in fact a founding member of the founding member club, I have to plead ignorance.

If you're asking if I'm serious about being involved in a three-way memail fest, I have to say that sounds pretty hot. Also I love getting memails, most of them. (You know who you are)
posted by villanelles at dawn at 10:25 PM on October 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was imaging a sort of round robin format. Its too bad there isn't some sort of system where all of us to could discuss these issues simultaneously. Like I post a statement, you're free to debate it, villanelles could raise questions too, oh well, one can dream.
posted by Chekhovian at 10:26 PM on October 13, 2011


I would prefer to interject the kind of silly comments that always got me kicked out of class, but that's just me.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 10:27 PM on October 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's not just you.
posted by The World Famous at 10:32 PM on October 13, 2011


It was just me in the hall outside Sra. Kerr's Spanish class.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 10:33 PM on October 13, 2011


You were not alone. It was then that I carried you.
posted by The World Famous at 10:42 PM on October 13, 2011


Alright, now we're getting kinky here. TWF, I promise I'll finish my homework, really, but I'm caught up listening to Hitchens again. Damn that guy has a smooth delivery.
posted by Chekhovian at 10:45 PM on October 13, 2011


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