December 15 2011, the world lost a great speaker, a good man full of wit, to cancer.
Reading Hitch 22 is a treat. To know a bit more intimacy of a man who had spoken so sharply, precisely what he think is right and what he considered absolutely bullshit, is fun.
Hitchslap is a word invented when someone is outwitted by Hitchens.
The first part of the book is about his mother, who he insisted to call Yvonne, and his father, the Commander
So, he was brought up in a not so well off household, with a Navy officer marrying a romantic person. He was brought as a first born, an English gentleman, with the mother insisting on sending him to the best school, and then to Oxford, while father not providing him with the money to have the mean to have a few drinks with his friends.
The second part is about his political views, he was a socialist, as he considered to be called a Liberal is too soft. He had travel widely, to all the leftist countries including Cuba. He was not a romantic, but was well read, and had actual actions of protests for workers rights and so on, that had left him a few bruises and a few kicks on the butt by the police.
He lived on both sides while in Oxford, as he was also friend some of the upper class students, that got invited to parties and could afford to drink from bottomless glasses. This sometimes collides and caused a few embarrassing moments that he handled quite well.
The good bit is about the stunt he pulled in protest, which he now showed some remorse on being the only one on Oxford record that ended a talk ended by potential riot.
The interesting bit about his sexuality, which he considered mostly heterosexual, but then he had also been attractive to men in his younger year, and he himself admitted that he has fallen for a guy in his teen.
He talked extensively about his travelling, on a job, and the risks he had taken. That included Fenton being kidnapped, and he being shot at a few times.
The third part is the most fun, is about his friendship with James Fenton and Martin Amis. That included Amis research for a book on sex work, that led them to a sex workers place, and Christopher, not having enough money on him to pay, have to sit this one out.
Christopher, being a journalist, had had a lot of meeting with interesting people, some he like, a lot of them he dislike. But staying on the subject, and producing a piece almost every single day, while giving lectures and talks made him one of the most productive person I know.
The interesting thing about his drinking, He knew he had to write, and could not really afford to get drunk. This showed of a disciplined man, who had never missed a deadline, or a scheduled talk, or walking on stage drunk. He did like his drink, which everyone knows, is Johnny Walker Black. This even so well known that everyone who meet him would give this one as a gift. He would then drink one in midday, cut it with Perrier with no ice.
As for his intellect, he had been attack for supporting war, where the leftists are opposed to it. He did this, knowing that the people of the place could no longer afford a madman being the leader and dictator anymore. So, he supported war when it is much more popular to be antiwar. So be it. He knew himself and knows his own reason for this, he even tried to write about it. But acceptance is not something he sort for, but a search for a reasonable dialogue.
He is anti-religious. And he got really famous for it. The last few chapters, he mentioned his new friendship with Richard Dawkins, that he admired surely, for his scholarly talk and straightforward reasoning.
One thing that you will get from this book, is that he was hypercritical of his own writings. And he considered himself a man of luck that other people would give time to see and talk and listen. He didn't seems to mind getting into conflicts, as long as there are reasons to be teased out and some good might come from it.
His own insecurity, his own criticism as a young father, his own self image after he got a bit chubby from drinking, or showed a bit of real person, the man who seems larger than life, yet being down to Earth at the same time.
Christopher Hitchens, I missed your talk, your words, and I like to thank you for your contribution to this world. You are most of all, a man of reason, that in a world that doesn't make much sense, need this type of voice ever more.
"Membership in the skeptical faction or tendency is not at all a soft option. The defense of science and reason is the greatest imperative of our time, and I feel absurdly honored to be grouped in the public mind with great teachers and scholars such as Richard Dawkins (a true Balliol man if ever there was one), Daniel Dennett, and Sam Harris. To be an unbeliever is not to be merely "open-minded". It is, rather, a decisive admission of uncertainty that is dialectically connected to the repudiation of the totalitarian principle, in the mind as well as in the politics. But that's my Hitch-22." -- Christopher Hitchens