Saturday, December 17, 2011

RIP Christopher Hitchens

Joe Bageant, Hazel Dickens, and now Christopher Hitchens - all had unique, powerful, and rare voices -

Some Hitchens stories/quotes as told by his friends over the last couple of days:

 David Frum:
"When the nurses asked him, in that insinuatingly cheerful way they have, how he was feeling that day, he'd answer, "I seem to have a touch of cancer.""...

"Christopher was never a man to back away from a confrontation on behalf of what he considered basic decency."...

"If moral clarity means hating cruelty and oppression, then Christopher Hitchens was above all things a man of moral clarity."...

"Christopher did not offer a model of what to think. He offered a model of how to think - and how to live. Fully. Fearlessly. Joyously. And then, alas too soon, of how to die: without bluster but without flinching, boldly writing until the fingers moved no more."...

 Emile Hirsh:
"But even more than presenting a mere path, he inspired me to want to learn more about the world in the first place -- he provokes wonder in people over ideas and the act of thinking for oneself; inspires an urge to walk the path."...

"His very strong opinions against religion I believe came from what one could arguably call an almost spiritual place -- he wanted the truth so badly, he would accept nothing that his mind could not spot smacked of counterfeit."...

"But Hitchens made rockstars seem small, as well as politicians or celebrities -- because his power wasn't something that was easily quantifiable or electable, he didn't have to pander to crowds to gain acceptance for a rise in this or that poll."...

Matthew Chapman:

"(we) became friends after sharing 3 or 4 bottles of wine and several whiskeys one lunchtime in New York.

As a once heavy drinker, I could handle all this and was still lucid, but by around 5 o'clock I was beginning to have wild and dangerous thoughts about stumbling off into worse adventures, but cut with the equally appealing idea of going home and crashing out totally.

I went to the bathroom to look in the mirror. It wasn't that alcohol had affected my sight -- I could see my surroundings clearly enough. No, my face was out of focus, the face itself, and there was an insane look in the eyes that did not bode well. Going home was really the only option.

I went back upstairs and before I could make my excuses, Christopher said, "Sorry, Matthew, I just ordered a couple more Scotches but then I really have to go. I'm debating Al Sharpton on TV in 45 minutes." I managed to get home and watch. He was completely coherent, funny, and brilliant -- as always."

 Christopher Buckley:
"Lunch—dinner, drinks, any occasion—with Christopher always was. One of our lunches, at Café Milano, the Rick’s Café of Washington, began at 1 P.M., and ended at 11:30 P.M. At about nine o’clock (though my memory is somewhat hazy), he said, “Should we order more food?” I somehow crawled home, where I remained under medical supervision for several weeks, packed in ice with a morphine drip. Christopher probably went home that night and wrote a biography of Orwell. His stamina was as epic as his erudition and wit."

"As for the wit … one day we were talking about Stalin. I observed that Stalin, eventual murderer of twenty, thirty—forty?—million, had trained as a priest. Not skipping a beat, Christopher remarked, “Indeed, was he not among the more promising of the Tbilisi ordinands?”
I thought—as I did perhaps one thousand times over the course of our three-decade long tutorial—Wow.
A few days later, at a dinner, the subject of Stalin having come up, I ventured to my dinner partner, “Indeed, was he not among the more promising of the Tbilisi ordinands?” The lady to whom I had proferred this thieved aperçu stopped chewing her salmon, repeated the line I had so casually tossed off, and said with frank admiration, “That’s brilliant.” I was tempted, but couldn’t quite bear to continue the imposture, and told her that the author of this nacreous witticism was in fact none other than Christopher. She laughed and said, “Well, everything he says is brilliant.”
Yes, everything he said was brilliant. It was a feast of reason and a flow of soul, and, if the author of “God Is Not Great” did not himself believe in the concept of soul, he sure had one, and it was a great soul."


"The other bit is from Housman, and though it’s from a poem that Christopher and I recited back and forth at each other across the tables at Café Milano, I hesitate to quote it here. I see him wincing at my deplorable propensity for “crowd-pleasing.” But I’m going to quote it anyway, doubting as I do that he would chafe at my trying to mine what consolation I can over the loss of my beloved athlete, who died so young.
Smart lad to slip betimes away
From fields where glory does not stay,
And early though the laurel grows
It withers quicker than the rose."
And as tweeted:
"Never be a spectator of unfairness or stupidity" Christopher Hitchens

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