Christopher Hitchens: In our pages, in our memories
Christopher Hitchens' influential life was lived out in public argument on panels, at lecterns, in books, magazines, newspapers and on Internet screens, including the Los Angeles Times. He wrote Op-Eds and book reviews, stretching back to 1990. In our pages he quoted W.H. Auden and might as well have been speaking for himself ("All I have is a voice/To undo the folded lie"). He objected to the death penalty ("It is for Congress to pass legislation removing the United States from the company of Islamic despotisms, banana republics and totalitarian dictatorships that still practice this barbarism") and to the "rushed, vindictive" execution of Saddam Hussein, when his reckoning should have been "sober, meticulous and untainted." He unraveled human connections ("We are all brothers and sisters under the skin long before pigmentation was evolved"). He examined celebrity ("Beware of too easy a surrender to the vicarious identification that makes us address people whom we have never met by their first names"); royalty ("archaic, celebrity freaks"); George Orwell ("Truth, it turns out, is great after all, and can prevail"). He poked, prodded and opinionated; he annoyed.
Another occasional contributor to the Op-Ed page, physicist Lawrence Krauss, had this to say Friday about Hitchens, who before he got too ill was writing a foreword to Krauss' upcoming book, "A Universe from Nothing":
Just before leaving his company the last time I saw him, in a poetic accident, I was reading a newspaper piece at his kitchen table about an emerging effort to ensure that young people at elite institutions preserve their Catholic upbringing during and after college. When describing the temptations to depart from piety, the author wrote: 'Exposed to Nietzsche, Hitchens, co-ed dorms and beer pong, such students are expected to stray.'
I reflected on what a remarkable tribute to the man this simple sentence represented. To be so overpowering in one's cultural impact that one can be mentioned without explanation is one thing, but to be sandwiched between Nietzsche and beer pong is an honor that very few of us can so hope to deservedly achieve.
Photo: Christopher Hitchens. Credit: Christian Witkin / TwelveBooks