Christopher Hitchens has loomed large in my life for as long as I can remember. I loved his contrarian piss-taking of otherwise-untouchable public figures as a 20-something, found him irritating and adolescent in my 30s, became livid with him over his support of the Iraq War and the Bush administration in the Aughts and came back around to loving him in the past several years as his pushback against a mindless monotheism increased in volume and frequency.
The thing I'd come to learn about Hitch, is that disagreeing with him on any given topic didn't preclude a deep appreciation of his insight, intellectual honesty, sense of justice, courage, and wicked, razor sharp wit.
And appreciate him I did. I hesitate to overstate this, but I've come to feel something akin to love for this man I'd never met, especially over the past few years, and even more especially over the past year. His unapologetic approach to his life, his unbelievably prolific output, his stridency in taking on the corrupt (with the sad exception of the Bushies), his strange charisma and his fierce debate skills brought clarity and energy to every topic he addressed. He was as fearsome and unsparing in describing his decline and mortality as he was with any of his other targets. (His final writings on the subject were painfully raw and insightful and should set a standard in the field.) He was profoundly inspiring to me.
Most of all, I now realize that while the irresistible pull of his aforementioned wit is what drew me to him, what spoke to me most deeply about the man—and what kept me reading him on a regular basis—was his unwavering and courageous commitment both to justice and to shining a light on purveyors of injustice.
The world will be a poorer place without him. It already is.
A collection of essays and obits from around the world:
The Dish 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12
The New Statesman—Richard Dawkins interview 1
The New Statesman—Richard Dawkins interview 2
Mail Online—Hitchens' brother Peter's eulogy
Salon catches up…
Mary Elizabeth Williams
Including words from those more critical…