Christopher Hitchens: Dies


Goober
#1
Christopher Hitchens’s secret: 'You must promise not to tell,' he asks Globe writer

Somewhere between an off-colour joke about Cherie Blair and our second drink of Johnny Walker, Christopher Hitchens made me promise him something.

He was dying and was about to have a cigarette – several in fact – but I couldn’t tell anybody that until after he was gone.

“You must promise not to tell anyone. It would be a condition that you wouldn’t mention it,” he said sternly.

We sat on a couple of dusty folding chairs in a dark apartment adjacent to his own that was under renovation at the time to create a larger living space for him and his family.

His seventeen-year-old daughter, Antonia, had just ordered pizza. His wife was away. He sat with me in the unfinished apartment, by an open window, drinking and smoking in secret.

Cigarettes, he explained, fought off the nausea he endured from chemotherapy. By that time, in October 2010, he was fighting stage four cancer of the esophagus.

“It’s a very profound addiction,” Mr. Hitchens said. “I couldn’t change, even if I wanted to,” he said. His illness created such a profound paradox for him.

The smoking and drinking that were so intertwined with his intellectual life conspired against him. He was now staring death in the face.

At the time, he knew “the numbers are not good.” Yet, he found it easier to contemplate death than renouncing scotch or cigarettes. Burning the candle at both ends prolonged “the lovely light” that defined so much of his creative life.

“It’s the only life for a gentleman. The difficulty is, you never know when it will finish you,” he said.

Mr. Hitchens and I spent a couple of hours together, talking about everything from the war in Iraq to his “omnipotent” wives.

The only time he ever cried was when we spoke about his children. He was “thoroughly” sick of talking about his illness, but he could talk about his children forever.

“Especially with Antonia. This was supposed to be her big year. I cracked up almost exactly on the day when I was going to take her on her first college trip. I felt very ashamed, depressed and miserable,” he said.

Clearly, he cherished them, yet he so rarely wrote about them.

He was the kind of father who took his son Alexander, also a journalist, to Iraq. The kind that pulled himself together to take Antonia to all of her college tours. It was something his own parents, who had never been to university, were not able to do for him.

As much as he loved them, he could not change who he was, even if that would have meant cutting his time with them short.

“My life is my writing before it’s anything. Because that’s who I am and my children come later and that’s what they’ve had to put up with,” he said. Just then, Antonia knocked on the door. The pizza had arrived. He crushed his half finished cigarette on a plate and left to have dinner with his daughter.

“This is the life I’ve led for a long time. I can’t imagine what it would have been like otherwise.”

David Frum on Christopher Hitchens: A man of moral clarity

Christopher Hitchens, 1949-2011: David Frum remembers the author | Full Comment | National Post

British-born journalist and atheist intellectual Christopher Hitchens, who made the United States his home and backed the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, died on Thursday at the age of 62.

Hitchens died in Houston of pneumonia, a complication of cancer of the esophagus, Vanity Fair magazine said.

“Christopher Hitchens – the incomparable critic, masterful rhetorician, fiery wit, and fearless bon vivant – died today at the age of 62,” Vanity Fair said.

The Post’s David Frum remembers ‘a man of moral clarity.’

A friend of theirs once took Christopher Hitchens and his wife Carol Blue to dinner at Palm Beach’s Everglades Club, notorious for its exclusion of Jews.

“You will behave, won’t you?” Carol anxiously asked Christopher on the way into the club. No dice. When the headwaiter approached, Christopher demanded: “Do you have a kosher menu?”

Christopher was never a man to back away from a confrontation on behalf of what he considered basic decency. Yet it would be wrong to remember only the confrontational side. Christopher was also a man of exquisite sensitivity and courtesy, dispensed without regard to age or station.

On one of the last occasions I saw him, my wife and I came to drop some food–lamb tagine – to sustain a family with more on its mind than cooking. Christopher, though weary and sick, insisted on painfully lifting himself from his chair to perform the rites of hospitality. He might have cancer, but we were still guests – and as guests, we must have champagne.

I once had the honor of sharing a debating platform with Christopher, on the same side thank God. It was like going into battle alongside the U.S. Marine Corps. The audience was overwhelmingly hostile. The longer Christopher talked, the more subdued they became.

As the event broke up, a crowd of questioners formed around him. I created a diversion thinking it would help him escape for some needed rest. But Christopher declined the offer. He stood with them, as tired as I was, but ready to adjourn to a nearby bar and converse with total strangers till the bars closed.


Peter J. Thompson/National Post
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Christopher Hitchens pose for photographers prior to a debate on religion in Toronto 2010
Hitchens was not one of those romantics who fetishized “dialogue.” Far from suffering fools gladly, he delighted in making fools suffer. When he heard that another friend, a professor, had a habit of seducing female students in his writing seminars, he shook his head pityingly. “It’s not worth it. Afterward, you have to read their short stories.”

He delighted in writing himself, of course, and in all that surrounded writing. I had the dazzling experience one night of listening to Christopher and Salman Rushdie replay a favorite game, wrecking book titles by changing a single word.

I wish I could remember them all, not only because they were so funny, but because I still wince at the scolding Christopher gave me when he overheard me relating the anecdote from memory and mangling his alternative to “The Great Gatsby” as “The Good Gatsby” rather than “The Big Gatsby.”

He especially liked gallows humor. When the nurses asked him, in that insinuatingly cheerful way they have, how he was feeling, he’d answer, “I seem to have a little touch of cancer.” If he was late to emerge from his living room to see you because of the exhaustion and nausea of chemotherapy, he’d excuse himself with, “I’m sorry to keep you waiting. I was brushing my hair”– of which of course there were only a few wisps left.

I never expected to become friends with him
 
mentalfloss
#2
All I know about this guy is that he was hated because he was an atheist (which is par for the course).
 
Goober
+1
#3
Quote: Originally Posted by mentalflossView Post

All I know about this guy is that he was hated because he was an atheist (which is par for the course).

Not just because of that - You would have to read what he wrote. He could write - I sometimes agreed and other times not - But you understood the points he was making.

He could be shall we say in your face - I enjoyed reading his columns.
 
Spade
#4
I thought he was disliked because he supported Bush in the Iraq fiasco.
 
Goober
#5
Quote: Originally Posted by SpadeView Post

I thought he was disliked because he supported Bush in the Iraq fiasco.

Indeed many are not aware of that. But did he support staying after.
 
Spade
#6
I don't know whether he supported "bash 'n dash."
 
Goober
#7
Quote: Originally Posted by SpadeView Post

I don't know whether he supported "bash 'n dash."

What they should have done in Afghanistan -
 
Dexter Sinister
+2
#8
He was disliked by a lot of people for a lot of reasons, but they really reduce to just one: he never flinched from arguing in support of what he believed to be, in his own words, "what is good, what is beautiful, what is noble, what is pure, and what is true." That, he said, is the only conversation worth having.

Christopher Hitchens; The Only Conversation Worth Having - YouTube (external - login to view)
 
In Between Man
#9
God forgive him.
 
gerryh
+1
#10
Quote: Originally Posted by In Between ManView Post

God forgive him.


He has.
 
Cliffy
+1
#11
I find it funny that some think that he needed forgiving. It says more about them than about Hitchens.
 
gerryh
+2
#12
Quote: Originally Posted by CliffyView Post

I find it funny that some think that he needed forgiving. It says more about them than about Hitchens.


Tell me Cliff, were you a perfect little angel that your parents never had to forgive you for anything?
 
In Between Man
#13
Quote: Originally Posted by gerryhView Post

He has.

Did he reciprocate?
 
Cliffy
+2
#14
Quote: Originally Posted by gerryhView Post

Tell me Cliff, were you a perfect little angel that your parents never had to forgive you for anything?

I was a constant disappointment to my dad. I became my own person instead of the one he wanted me to be. One day he came to visit me out here in BC and we were just buddies, not father and son, no expectations, no forgiveness, no judgements. On his death bed, he spoke to my brother about various ideas that my brother didn't understand because he had never heard about them and he thought they were contrary to my dads Catholic beliefs. After he died, my brother was the executor. While going through his things my brother came across a copy of my first book among his things. He read it and saw there the things that my dad had been talking about. He was quoting my writing on spirituality.

I detested the old fart when I was growing up but I never forgave him. I just let him be him and he let me be me. Eventually we became friends and learned to respect each other. That is how I see my relationship with my higher power/creator/god.
 
WLDB
#15
Quote: Originally Posted by In Between ManView Post

Did he reciprocate?


If there is a God, I doubt Hitchens would reciprocate. He not only did not believe in God but hated the very idea of one.

His death isn't unexpected but is still a bit shocking. I quite enjoyed reading his stuff and watching the debates he'd participate in.
 
Corduroy
#16
Fumbling, Inarticulate Obituary Writer Somehow Losing Debate To Christopher Hitchens | The Onion - America's Finest News Source (external - login to view)
 
gerryh
+1
#17
Quote: Originally Posted by CliffyView Post

I was a constant disappointment to my dad. I became my own person instead of the one he wanted me to be. One day he came to visit me out here in BC and we were just buddies, not father and son, no expectations, no forgiveness, no judgements. On his death bed, he spoke to my brother about various ideas that my brother didn't understand because he had never heard about them and he thought they were contrary to my dads Catholic beliefs. After he died, my brother was the executor. While going through his things my brother came across a copy of my first book among his things. He read it and saw there the things that my dad had been talking about. He was quoting my writing on spirituality.

I detested the old fart when I was growing up but I never forgave him. I just let him be him and he let me be me. Eventually we became friends and learned to respect each other. That is how I see my relationship with my higher power/creator/god.


The question was a simple one Cliffy and didn't need a 10 min oratory. The fact that you decided to go on and on answers a whole lot.

Quote: Originally Posted by WLDBView Post

If there is a God, I doubt Hitchens would reciprocate. He not only did not believe in God but hated the very idea of one.

His death isn't unexpected but is still a bit shocking. I quite enjoyed reading his stuff and watching the debates he'd participate in.


Personally, I think it's pretty arogant of you to assume what hitchens would do when faced with a God that he denied.
 
Colpy
+1
#18
Quote: Originally Posted by WLDBView Post

If there is a God, I doubt Hitchens would reciprocate. He not only did not believe in God but hated the very idea of one.

His death isn't unexpected but is still a bit shocking. I quite enjoyed reading his stuff and watching the debates he'd participate in.

I disliked Hitchen's views on God, or the lack thereof, and thought his arguments shallow. I watched him debate Tony Blair, and he won by simply charming the audience........and due to fact Blair refused to push his points. Debate is a fight, with rapiers......when you are making a point, push it through.

Of course, Blair was hindered by the fact he is a Catholic. (for you Gerry)

I enjoyed immensely the fact that Hitchen's disagreed with the politically correct view of almost everything, and from what I have read of him personally, I probably would have liked him immensely.

He will be missed, by anyone that admires intellect for its own sake.

Ramming the point home:

The PJ Tatler » Christopher Hitchens at His Best: Rare Video of Hitch Disemboweling the American Left (external - login to view)
 
Dexter Sinister
#19
Quote: Originally Posted by ColpyView Post

He will be missed, by anyone that admires intellect for its own sake.

I'd be one of those. I didn't always agree with him, I don't for instance think he's right that religion poisons everything, though he's certainly right that the more extreme and politicized manifestations of it poison a lot of things, but I seriously doubt I'd have bested him in a debate on the subject. I especially like the way he ends that video I linked to above: " "Take the risk of thinking for yourself. Much more happiness, truth, beauty, and wisdom, will come to you that way." It'll also generate a lot of hostility from others, but as a friend of mine would say, them's the hazards. As a summary of his thought, an excellent rule to live by, and an elegant statement in the " last words" category, nobody could do better than that in so few words.
 
karrie
+1
#20
Quote: Originally Posted by WLDBView Post

If there is a God, I doubt Hitchens would reciprocate. He not only did not believe in God but hated the very idea of one.

I wasn't a fan of Hitchens, but I never thought he came off as hating the idea of a god. I thought he came off as hating what the idea of a god does to humanity, the **** that God has been used to justify, the way people weaponize the notion of God.
 
WLDB
#21
Quote: Originally Posted by gerryhView Post





Personally, I think it's pretty arogant of you to assume what hitchens would do when faced with a God that he denied.

No moreso arrogant than you assuming that a God that hasnt been proven to exist has forgiven someone who denied the existence of said God.
 
karrie
+4
#22  Top Rated Post
 
WLDB
#23
Quote: Originally Posted by karrieView Post

I wasn't a fan of Hitchens, but I never thought he came off as hating the idea of a god. I thought he came off as hating what the idea of a god does to humanity, the **** that God has been used to justify, the way people weaponize the notion of God.


Christopher Hitchens on Q TV - YouTube (external - login to view)

He makes it pretty clear in the first five minutes or so of the interview.
 
Cliffy
#24
What Christopher (and most of us) didn't get was that he was just a figment of his own imagination.

Our imaginations are so powerful, that we actually we believe that we are on some contraption, called a computer, communicating with other beings called humans. Really, I am just one of god's personalities communicating with some of god's other personalities.
 
Goober
#25
Quote: Originally Posted by WLDBView Post

No moreso arrogant than you assuming that a God that hasnt been proven to exist has forgiven someone who denied the existence of said God.

Well that is what God does. Even people that do not believe, if they live a good life can enter heaven. Imagine his surprise.Followed by the statement " oh my God - reply - Yes.
 
WLDB
#26
Quote: Originally Posted by CliffyView Post

What Christopher (and most of us) didn't get was that he was just a figment of his own imagination.

Our imaginations are so powerful, that we actually we believe that we are on some contraption, called a computer, communicating with other beings called humans. Really, I am just one of god's personalities communicating with some of god's other personalities.

Or so you imagine.
 
Cliffy
#27
Quote: Originally Posted by GooberView Post

Well that is waht God does. Even people that do not belive, if they live a good life can enter heaven. Imagine his suprise.

Hitchens would probably debate god until god gave him control of heaven.

Quote: Originally Posted by WLDBView Post

Or so you imagine.

That's not an argument.
Yes it is.
No it isn't.
Yes it is. That'll be ten pounds.
 
Spade
#28
Quote: Originally Posted by CliffyView Post

Hitchens would probably debate god until god gave him control of heaven.

But he peered into hell.
Hitchens Aggressively Interrogated - YouTube (external - login to view)
 
Goober
#29
Quote: Originally Posted by SpadeView Post

But he peered into hell.
Hitchens Aggressively Interrogated - YouTube (external - login to view)

He also had a bikini wax - Guess which one was worse?
 
In Between Man
#30
Quote: Originally Posted by GooberView Post

Even people that do not believe, if they live a good life can enter heaven.

Sorry my friend, but it doesn't work that way. You could never do enough "good" to enter heaven. There's no such thing as a "good person", and if you think you are a good person, then you need to realize how foolish it is to judge yourself by your own standard. God's standard to enter heaven is perfection. That's why you need Jesus Christ to enter heaven, because he lived the perfect life no man could live.
 

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