RIP Christopher Hitchens, 1949–2011
Vanity Fair has the awful news:
Christopher Hitchens—the incomparable critic, masterful rhetorician, fiery wit, and fearless bon vivant—died today at the age of 62. Hitchens was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in the spring of 2010, just after the publication of his memoir, Hitch-22, and began chemotherapy soon after. His matchless prose has appeared in Vanity Fair since 1992, when he was named contributing editor.
“Cancer victimhood contains a permanent temptation to be self-centered and even solipsistic,” Hitchens wrote nearly a year ago in Vanity Fair, but his own final labors were anything but: in the last 12 months, he produced for this magazine a piece on U.S.-Pakistani relations in the wake of Osama bin Laden’s death, a portrait of Joan Didion, an essay on the Private Eye retrospective at the Victoria and Albert Museum, a prediction about the future of democracy in Egypt, a meditation on the legacy of progressivism in Wisconsin, and a series of frank, graceful, and exquisitely written essays in which he chronicled the physical and spiritual effects of his disease. 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.
Via Ace who adds, "I guess I can mention this:"
I saw him last year at Union Station. His hair was thinning from cancer treatment.
He was outside, smoking. Puffing away.
Something about his defiant character in that, I guess. Or foolishness. Or both.
Related: On the PJM homepage back in late June, Kyle Smith reviewed The Quotable Hitchens: From Alcohol to Zionism, a terrific anthology of Hitchens' best bon mots and aphorisms on a whole host of subjects, which is searchable in its Kindle version for any blogger who needs a quick quote from Hitch on any topic imaginable. Sadly, I believe that will be the last book published featuring Hitchens' writing while Hitchens was still alive. And don't miss Brendan Bernhard August 2010 article for PJM on "Hitchens' Example to America," particularly it's all too often feckless media.
Smith had a brilliant moment he quoted in 2009 on his blog that sums up Hitchens' attitude toward life and liquor perfectly:
Hitchens went to a party on a (literal) summit in Aspen, asked for a gin and tonic, and was told, “Sir, that wouldn’t be appropriate at this attitude.” Hitchens replied, “In that case I’ll have a double gin.”
Update: From Rob Long, a video look back at Hitchens debating William F. Buckley on the 196os, on Peter Robinson's Uncommon Knowledge show from 1998. Rob hopes Buckley "is needling Hitchens nonstop at this very moment."
And speaking of Peter Robinson, "Odd thought this may be to say about someone who remained so completely English, but Christopher Hitchens loved this country with the same abandoned, head-over-heels love that I saw in Ronald Reagan."
Allahpundit adds, "Hitchens being Hitchens, I wonder which he anticipated more eagerly — the end of the pain or finally knowing if he was right about you know what. I suspect he was right. I hope we’re both wrong."