Some who know me may be surprised to learn I was no fan of Christopher Hitchens. The jaded raver in me with a satirical disposition often described in mono-syllabic words ranging from ‘dry’ to ‘dark’ should find something to like and admire about Hitchens right?
To a point.
I always saw Hitchens as a drunk that could win an argument, any argument, with a bit of panache, bile and wit. I always saw myself as a drunk who could lose an argument, any argument, with a bit of panache, bile and wit. To the extent that is true, we are polar opposites.
When William S. Burroughs is your hero growing up the idea of Hitchens as some sort of wild eyed contrarian always struck me as not quite right. Is there anything more mundane than a well educated, equal parts charming and maddening Englishman endlessly drinking, chain smoking and calling Mother Theresa a cunt?
If he was such a contrarian why such fawning remembrances of him in every milquetoast, middlebrow ‘merican magazine from The Nation to Reason, Salon to Slate, Andrew Sullivan to surely the most pseudo-intellectual feel good grocery store checkout line purchase of the late 20th century for which he wrote, Vanity Fair?
He was prolific to be sure, an admirable virtue to this late blooming lowly blogger. An entertaining writer and talk show guest no doubt; though one should remember his lackluster competition. I liked Hitchens best at his arguably least popular in the 90s attacking the Clinton’s and their whole enterprise for being conniving, blood thirsty and the ultimate in the American version of shallow, banal evil. His militant atheism left this godless heathen cold. One of the things I abhor about organized religion is precisely its militancy and fundamentalism. It is no less of a buzzkill when issued from an atheist. His advocacy of western-led genocide in Iraq and the Middle East always struck me as the pose of an adolescent: ‘Daddy Liberal believes X so I’m going to advocate Y in the most boorish way possible to really piss him off’ and right in the middle of the shopping mall.
My best comparison for Hitchens would be Huxley’s Chrome Yellow. Well written. Intellectual. Satirical. Dry. Occasionally brilliant. But please, more scenes with Barbecue-Smith! Perhaps a couple good doses of the psilocybin and LSD Huxley would later use could of pushed ‘Hitch’ beyond the rascally English rebel every Beltway pundit could love and admire.