The Corner

Kinsley v. Hitchens

I’m a little late on the subject, but I found Michael Kinsley’s review of Christopher Hitchens’ new book interesting, enjoyable and ultimately pointless. As Hitchens himself says of the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” it was “engaging but abysmal.” I think Kinsley is brilliant, but brilliant like a laser, not a floodlight: He illuminates little but can cut through a lot. In other words, he’s great at exposing hypocrisy and inconsistency, but he is so cynical and so impervious to arguments based on anything transcendent or philosophically complex, that he invariably reduces things he doesn’t understand or appreciate to narratives he’s comfortable dealing with. So he reduces Christopher Hitchens into some kind of performance artist, reviewing the man rather than his book. This makes particular sense because Hitchens basically uses Kinsley’s own preferred techniques when it comes to religion (logic games, consistency-policing etc) so that Kinsley is left with nowhere to go other than a dissection of Hitchens himself. I found it interesting to read a review of Hitchens in the New York Times Book Review, but it would have been nice to read a review of the book, too.

Update: Ah,  Ross Douthat beat me to the punch.