Kinsley on Hitchens: "!!!!!"

In tomorrow's Book Review, Slate founder/TIME columnist Michael Kinsley explains to us the magic behind "the Christopher Hitchens phenomenon." Who would have guessed—apparently the secret is logic.

"The big strategic challenge for a career like this is to remain interesting, and the easiest tactic for doing that is surprise," Kinsley writes. "If they are expecting X, you say minus X."

But how do you know when it's working? That's where Kinsley's counter-intuitiveness rating system—based, it seems, on simple punctuation games—comes in handy. Declaring you're against abortion, for instance, gets an "Interesting!" Revealing a Jewish mother tops that with "Interesting!!" Hating on Bill Clinton, "Interesting!!!" Supporting the Iraq war, "Interesting!!!!"

How to break the five exclamation point threshold, after the jump.

Trouble is, Hitchen's new book about why religion—er, "god-worship"—is bad is not 'minus X' at all. It is totally completely X. Isn't that... interesting!!!!!?

See, that's the trick. Kinsley writes:

Well, ladies and gentleman, Hitchens is either playing the contrarian at a very high level or possible he is even sincere. But just when he had us expecting minus X, he confounds us by reverting to X.

Apparently getting the cover of the NYT Book Review just requires some meta-level flip-flopping.

Sadly, all this "reason" might work on paper, but in the rough and tumble world of amazon.com sales rankings, it only gets you so far. Advance orders of the seventh Harry Potter book (!!!!!!!) are currently trouncing Hitchens' God Is Not Great for the number one spot. Interestingly (...?), Rhonda Byrne's The Secret, the book that explains how you can cure cancer by thinking special thoughts, is currently in third.

The lesson here is that people like hearing about magical things, have gotten over god, and want to prevent bad things from happening to them with their minds. So remember, aspiring authors: logically doing double-opposite things might get you exclamation points from the Times, but what's really in demand is... pretending?—LUX

In God Distrust [NYTBR]