The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Christopher Hitchens, R.I.P.

Posted on | December 16, 2011 | 25 Comments

A brilliant mind:

Christopher Hitchens, a slashing polemicist in the tradition of Thomas Paine and George Orwell who trained his sights on targets as various as Henry Kissinger, the British monarchy and Mother Teresa, wrote a best-seller attacking religious belief, and dismayed his former comrades on the left by enthusiastically supporting the American-led war in Iraq, died Thursday at the M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. He was 62.
The cause was pneumonia, a complication of esophageal cancer, said the magazine Vanity Fair, which announced the death.

Christopher Hitchens could tell a joke better than anyone I’ve ever met. I saw him do a stand-up routine at a benefit for the “PlameGate Two” in 2007 and nearly busted a gut laughing. It was not merely the jokes themselves that made me laugh so much. Rather, it was the way he delivered them.

So when I encountered Hitch at a Reason magazine happy hour near Dupont Circle later that year, I insisted that he tell some more jokes. He agreed to do this, so long as I kept the whiskey coming. He preferred Johnny Walker, but I can’t remember whether it was black or red label. At any rate, as long as I was buying the whiskey, Hitch kept telling jokes, and he went on for more than an hour, to the great amusement of myself and several friends.

Hitchens was a notorious atheist, alas. But he could tell a joke.

UPDATE: Joy McCann has an aggregation and her own thoughts:

This one is very, very hard; I’m trying to remember the last time I cried at the death of a public figure.

Emotion is useless. We will miss them in their absence — never another chance to trade whiskey for jokes — but we ought to remember their lives more than we mourn their deaths.

UPDATE II: Ace knew Hitchens, too:

He was 62. When I saw him a few years ago . . . he acted as if he was 25.

Indeed, from his fondness for ribald jokes to his iconclastic mockery, Hitchens was eternally the prankish schoolboy.

UPDATE III: Michelle Malkin offers some very personal memories and adds:

His writings on Muslim jihadists, Islamic rage boy syndrome, and sharia law were especially compelling — and his fearless work on those topics was cited here numerous times over the years.

The Vanity Fair obit aptly calls him a “bon vivant”:

At the end, Hitchens was more engaged, relentless, hilarious, observant, and intelligent than just about everyone else — just as he had been for the last four decades.

It is important to note that Hitchens was not one of these sit-at-home-and-snark writers, but was a world-traveling reporter.

Comments

  • Dcmick

    One more thing is dead, and that is his atheism. 

  • http://zillablog.marezilla.com Zilla of the Resistance

    May he rest in peace. Very nice tribute to your friend, Stacy, my condolences to everyone who grieves for him.

  • http://twitter.com/opinador Opinador Compulsivo

    Brilliant, maybe. But he could also be a HUGE tool, like in this book co-edited with vermins like Chomsky, Said and Finkelstein.

  • Quartermaster

    Opinador, I liked Finkelstein because he pretty much outed Dershowitz as the liar and plagiarist he is. Finkelstein totally fisked that poseur and that’s why Dershie hates his guts. Not so much outside of that.

    In Edvard Radzinsky’s biography it is said that a number of men, such as Yagoda who was the chief Chekist during the early part of the 30s terror, discovered there really was a God. Unless Hitch repented during his last time in this vail of tears he will never rest again. For those who enter eternity without Christ there is only eternal death and torment.

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  • http://thecampofthesaints.org Bob Belvedere

    Well said, Stacy.

    Like Orwell, he fearlessly took on his own when he saw the Left strangling the Truth.

    I’m reminded of Ben Franklin’s description of John Adams: [He] means well for his country, is always an honest man, often a wise one, but sometimes, and in some things, absolutely out of his senses.

    I’ll be raising a bourbon to him.

  • http://leatherpenguin.com/wordpress/ TC_LeatherPenguin

    When people asked me who were the writers I looked to for inspiration, I’d tell them, “The 4-H Club: Harlan (Ellison), Hunter (Thompson), Henry (Miller), and Hitch.” Funny the way I could size someone up by which member of the team they had never heard of, or read.

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  • http://thepagantemple.blogspot.com/ ThePaganTemple

    Bullshit.

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  • Anonymous

    HST and Hitch, obviously yes. I am familiar with Henry Miller, but can’t say I’ve read him, and draw a blank on Ellison.

  • Anonymous

    You raise an excellent point, Bob: His admiration for Orwell spoke well of Hitch, who refused to be blind to the faults of the Left. The fact that I finally met him at Reason magazine — after he broke with the Left over Iraq — goes to prove something I’ve said for years: Libertarianism has replaced patriotism as the last refuge for scoundrels.

    Of course, I mean that in a nice way: Back when I was being smeared as a racist, my friends at Reason and in the Libertarian Party were among my staunchest (and most helpful) allies. I am an Austrian in economics, and this stood me in good stead at a time of crisis.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_5JSPB4UF6QXSOCJM6AIMK5F7GU PatrickC

    If you’ve not done so, get a copy of “Hitch-22”.  One of the best autobiographies I’ve ever read.

  • http://twitter.com/opinador Opinador Compulsivo

    What PaganTemple said.  
    Finkelstein is a sh*t stain in the world’s underwear.  

    Also, please cut the crap with the fire and brimstone threats for us non-believers.  Thank you.

  • Quartermaster

    The threats aren’t mine. And Finkelstein showed just what Dershie actually is.  I don’t care if you agree or not. Even a Finkelstein can be right on rare occasion.

  • htowt

    Stacy:
     
    Thanks for doing what you do: reporting.
     
    Knowing that Christopher Hitchens could tell jokes until the glasses ran dry is a nice remembrance.  Also, being reminded of the Allahpundit Christmas gift and Hitch’s waterboarding stunt made me smile.

    Christopher Hitchens celebrated life, and his gusto will be missed.
     

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  • http://twitter.com/psychoelephant1 psycho elephant

    I’m a lefty and I liked the man. By the way, nice new digs mccain. first time commenting. I’ve been lurking for years. finally started my own site —- mocking you bastards. ;-P To your credit, your not all crazy. Just a good amount of you. 8-D

    CE

  • http://leatherpenguin.com/wordpress/ TC_LeatherPenguin

    SIGH… SAP. Best short story….

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