Since his death Thursday evening, the tributes to Christopher Hitchens have been coming in droves. Here’s a link to some of the best:
Joe Klein at Time: “I will miss the joy of reading him, and chatting with him at parties; but more, I worry that Hitch is taking with him a world, a world of contemplative reading and writing–the very opposite of what I am doing right now, posting an immediate reaction to his death on this blog. He lived life perpetually intoxicated, not just by booze (he was happily soused during our English debate), but by books and words and thoughts and ideas. I will miss him, and all the excesses he cherished. We need more such, and are left with less.”
David Frum: Christopher was never a man to back away from a confrontation on behalf of what he considered basic decency. Yet it would be wrong to remember only the confrontational side. Christopher was also a man of exquisite sensitivity and courtesy, dispensed without regard to age or station. On one of the last occasions I saw him, my wife and I came to drop some food–lamb tagine–to sustain a family with more on its mind than cooking. Christopher, though weary and sick, insisted on painfully lifting himself from his chair to perform the rites of hospitality. He might have cancer, but we were still guests–and as guests, we must have champagne.
More after the jump.Benjamin Schwarz in The Atlantic: Like his hero, Orwell, Christopher prized bravery above all other qualities–and in particular the bravery required for unflinching honesty. And as was true of the work of Orwell, the former colonial policeman, this devotion paradoxically lent a certain military coloring to Christopher’s intellectual, literary, and political pursuits. This most intellectual of men valued intelligence, but valued courage far more–or rather, he believed that true intellect was inseparable from courage. It’s commonly said that Christopher couldn’t stand stupidity. That isn’t true: He couldn’t tolerate stupidity married to pretentiousness or dishonesty. It’s also said that Hitchens was intolerant of his adversaries. True, he saw many of his adversaries–the shabby and dishonest–as beneath contempt. Rightly so. But he could be far more than tolerant of those honest men and women who were devoted to causes he found abhorrent: He paid honor to his enemies.
Doug Wilson at Christianity Today: One time we shared a panel in Dallas, and I told the crowd there that if Christopher and I were not careful, we were in danger of becoming friends. During the time we spent together, he never said an unkind thing to me—except on stage, up in front of everybody. After doing this, he didn’t wink at me, but he might as well have.
Jacob Weisberg in Slate: Here’s what I learned from Christopher Hitchens in the 25 years I knew him. Don’t let anyone else do your thinking for you. Follow your principles to the end. Don’t flinch from the truth. Repeat until the last ounce of strength drains from your body.
Ian McEwan in The Guardian: He could have written a review, but he was due to turn in a long piece on Chesterton. And so this was how it would go: talk about books and politics, then he dozed while I read or wrote, then more talk, then we both read. The intensive care unit room was crammed with flickering machines and sustaining tubes, but they seemed almost decorative. Books, journalism, the ideas behind both, conquered the sterile space, or warmed it, they raised it to the condition of a good university library. And they protected us from the bleak high-rise view through the plate glass windows, of that world, in Larkin’s lines, whose loves and chances “are beyond the stretch/Of any hand from here!”
Alex Massie in Spectator: A foolish consistency is a terrible error and no-one, perhaps not even those dolts who hated him, could accuse Christopher of that. But though he was often a contrarian he was rarely a contrarian for the sake of being a contrarian. There was a point to it all and it was not a pose struck for the sake of, well, just striking a pose. That said, his poses were also an aesthetic matter: Hitch had style and he knew it and traded on it and that was all just fine. You could love it but you also, if you were being honest with yourself, envied it and, in sourer moments, almost resented it because you knew you could never match it. That was your problem, not Christopher’s. Buck up, laddie.
Andrew Sullivan has several posts about him: I could sense it coming. But I couldn’t write anything beforehand and I cannot write anything worthy of him now. So I just sat down an hour ago when I heard the news – Aaron told me as he clicked on Gawker – and sat a while and got up to write and then blubbered a bit and, staring at the screen, read through some emails from him.
Christopher’s brother, Peter, in The Daily Mail: Here’s a thing I will say now without hesitation, unqualified and important. The one word that comes to mind when I think of my brother is ‘courage’. By this I don’t mean the lack of fear which some people have, which enables them to do very dangerous or frightening things because they have no idea what it is to be afraid. I mean a courage which overcomes real fear, while actually experiencing it.
Christopher Buckley in The New Yorker: We were friends for more than thirty years, which is a long time but, now that he is gone, seems not nearly long enough. I was rather nervous when I first met him, one night in London in 1977, along with his great friend Martin Amis. I had read his journalism and was already in awe of his brilliance and wit and couldn’t think what on earth I could bring to his table. I don’t know if he sensed the diffidence on my part—no, of course he did; he never missed anything—but he set me instantly at ease, and so began one of the great friendships and benisons of my life. It occurs to me that “benison” is a word I first learned from Christopher, along with so much else.