cover image Prepared for the Worst

Prepared for the Worst

Christopher Hitchens. Hill & Wang, $19.95 (357pp) ISBN 978-0-8090-7867-7

Hitchens has written a great deal of bracing good sense on politics and literature in the past decade or so, and much of it has been collected between the covers of this well-packed book. Since these pieces originally appeared in journals as wide-ranging as the TLS , Grand Street , Harper's , Mother Jones , the Nation and Spectator , only the most avid admirer would be likely to have come across them all. In addition to the predictable, eloquent Reagan-bashing, there are thoughtful essays on Paul Scott and his Raj Quartet , the contradictions of George Orwell, the Brideshead phenomenon, that very independent-minded Israeli Professor Israel Shahak, Conor Cruise O'Brien, even something as up-to-date as a perceptive review of Bonfire of the Vanities. Hitchens writes clearly, from a well-stocked mind, and is free of the cant that affects many political journalists. Why the kinds of views that he and his very kindred spirit Alexander Cockburn express so well never receive an airing on TV, where they would reach a much wider audience, remains a source of shame to a supposedly free medium. In any case, book (and magazine) readers can feel fortunate that publishers suffer no such self-imposed restraints. (November)