Friday, December 16, 2011

A Toast to Christopher Hitchens

I'm pervasively and profoundly sad to have spent this morning reading about Christopher Hitchens, who died last night, because it means that I won't be spending any more mornings reading Christopher Hitchens himself. And I would read anything he wrote. Can't think of another writer for whom that's true, even ones I agree with more reliably than I did with Hitchens. He was just so damn smart and funny and talented and appealing in every way a writer can and should be. Hitchens's work appeals to a reader's sense of justice and sense of logic and sense of humor with prose so sharp and arguments so well-reasoned that even when I thought he was utterly and irretrievably wrong (the notorious Vanity Fair piece on female comedians comes to mind, as does his early stance on the Iraq War), his writing demanded sustained attention and a serious intellectual response. Even though I'll never be as gifted a writer, he made me a better reader.

Christopher Hitchens was also the type of public figure I tricked myself into thinking I could be friends with, given half the chance. In interviews, as well as on the page, he always seemed so affable and wry and approachable despite having a mind that seemed to have a fully-realized and complicated position on, and I'm not exaggerating here, everything. I even picked up the pretty obnoxious habit of thinking of and referring to him as "Hitch," like we were drinking buddies. We weren't, though, and I didn't know the man whose body gave out last night. I'm sorry for his friends who did, and I'm sorry for the rest of us that his body of work has given out as well. I feel like in mourning him, I'm also mourning all the essays and books he didn't get to write. It doesn't make much sense, considering his dire diagnosis and the frank manner in which he spoke about it, how surprised I am that he's gone--I guess I thought because his writing was so powerful, it wouldn't, couldn't, just stop.

I'm going to have a bourbon for Hitch tonight, and read his new collection of essays, and deeply wish it wasn't his last.

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