- Love, Poverty & War by Christopher Hitchens
- Dreams Must Explain Themselves by Ursula K Le Guin
Firstly I just want to say that I was really disappointed with these books. As I like writing non-fiction and essays I thought that I would buy some books of essays by famous writers. I generally found them really dry and sterile. I’d recently read Tao the Watercourse Way by Alan Watts and I was wishing for something more playful. But both Le Guin and Hitchens write more like journalists. The world’s they present are quite dreary. I found both of them quite opinionated and nit picking.
A highlight of Hitchens book is the essay about Sunset Boulevard which explores amongst other things Los Angeles’ links to Weimar Germany. His reviews of Joyce and Borges are pretty interesting and the travelogue from North Korea is good. I found his review of Michael Moore’s film quite depressing and boring and just his politics generally. I found that he was a bit of a contrarian.
Le Guin harps on a bit too much about the craft of writing. She had interesting views on anthropology and anarchism and I wanted to see her explore more of those ideas rather than keep banging the drum for fantasy and how her characters have a life of her own. Le Guin is quite funny though and very writerly. Sometimes it’s worth just ploughing through and otherwise boring essay for that perfectly crafted sentence or allusion.
I do wish more writers could be playful like Alan Watts or Benjamin Hoff. There is a book called Zen Mind Beginners Mind by Suzuki Rossi which also has that playful edge.
I suspect as Hitchens was actually a journalist that he was quite absorbed in the world of politics’ day to day goings on and machinations and probably would regard Watts and Hoff as lightheaded. But even to take something a bit more serious such as the nature writings of Jung edited by Meredith Sabrini they felt worth reading on interesting topics. Le Guin wasn’t by instinct an essayist but I get bored with he4 screeds about the art of writing (as it mostly deals with fiction and fantasy).
Yes so I was disappointed. I’m not sure where to go for my own inspiration. I feel like looking more to poets like Leonard Cohen or Hafiz but I am not schooled in rhyme and meter. There doesn’t seem to be a niche for something that combines elements of the essay and elements of poetry. Anyway aside from occasional highs such as the essay about Los Angeles these two books of essays left me bored and annoyed.