1949 — 2011
Christopher Hitchens has died of esophageal cancer at the age of 62. A voracious smoker and hardcore drinker all of his life, he was diagnosed in 2010 with the disease already advanced to stage 4. When asked about his prognosis he quipped, “Well, there is no stage five…”
I am a long-time fan of the Hitch, whom I first came to admire and then adore on the pages of Vanity Fair magazine. In 2007 I knew I was hopelessly in love with him when I was only a few pages into God Is Not Great. Never before had I read such compelling, crystal clear, fiery prose on the evils and absurdities of religion. His words leapt from the pages and danced an endless Balanchine ballet in my mind. He could toss out historical facts, arguments from modern and classical philosophy, obscure literary quotes and scientific knowledge as if his skull contained the entire contents of the Library of Congress. I watched, mesmerized, as he mercilessly slaughtered his opponents in countless recorded debates, and infuriated enemies and admirers alike in dozens of media appearances. He was deadpan hilarious, and deadly serious.
As thrilling as it was, this was a maddening, devastating love affair, and I knew it was doomed when I heard him (beautifully, eloquently) rail in defense of George W. Bush and the Iraq War, two among the most tragic calamities of my lifetime. He had a misogynist streak I naturally abhorred, as well as an ugly conservative bent that would rear its head from time to time. He broke my heart then, as surely as it breaks again now. But yet I loved him still: the tempestuous man, the dazzling writer, the fierce orator, the larger-than-life character, the force of nature.
I always will.