THE HITCH. Mike Kinsley reviewed Chris Hitchens' new book, God Is Not Great, for the Times earlier this week. It turns out to be more of a review of Hitchens' peripatetic mind than of the latest contribution to the British writer-contrarian's to his opus, which is presently at #3 on Amazon (thank God!). I haven't read GING yet, but will be dipping into it shortly.

I did, however, have the good fortune to see Hitch give the first public presentation of the new book, at the Arkansas Literary Festival a few weeks ago. I've been meaning to write about the event because, well, he was simply brilliant. Yes, I'm still pissed as hell about his defense of a certain pre-emptive war that's taken more than 4,000 Americans (counting contractors, who always go uncounted), and something equivalent to the combined annual budgets of what must be the smallest 20 states. And, had he called on me, I wanted to ask him how he could square his powerful arguments in the new book about the deleterious, dehumanizing and often fatal consequences of religion with the fact that a man who believes he was installed in the Oval Office by God is the same person responsible for the war Hitchens has defended. I realize an idea should not be judged by its adherents, and that the policy could in theory be smart even if the president's motivations are mystical, but c'mon: Excusing this case study takes the sort of logical contortionism and denial of first principles we haven't seen since, oh, the Supreme Court ended the Florida recount.

But damn: Situating himself squarely within the nascent Sam Harris-Richard Dawkins tradition, Hitchens just hammered away in Little Rock. Smart, funny, clever but not too coy, it was one of the most impressive book chats I have ever witnessed.

--Tom Schaller

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