Posts Tagged ‘Christopher Hitchens’

Gone Too Soon

Posted: December 16, 2011 in Uncategorized
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I had mentioned in an earlier post that I would surely want to compose one or more entries on Christopher Hitchens at some point. I had not planned on doing that just yet, but Hitch died last night and this has been weighing heavily on me all day.

Hitch was a hero to me. I did not expect to be this bothered by his death. I had just turned off all the lights last night and was on my way in the dark to my room when my phone beeped. My brother had been doing some web browsing and saw the news on Hitch. He emailed me to tell me. I read his message on my glowing phone in the dark and uttered “noooo” in the silence. Twitter was buzzing with confirmation. I didn’t get to sleep for another hour.

Hitch died of pneumonia complications, long suffering from esophageal cancer. As he withered away physically over the past year, he continued to write some amazing stuff. He wrote a gut-wrenching account of losing his voice to the disease – a huge loss to one of the finest orators and debaters of our time. In his last Vanity Fair column (January 2012) he challenges the assertion “Whatever doesn’t kill me makes me stronger,” and wonders why he ever thought it to be profound.

When I got up this morning I put my audiobook version of his memoir Hitch-22 on my phone so I could give it a re-listen in the car. Hitch reads it himself. His reading of the book’s prologue brought tears to my eyes. He wrote the prologue to his book in late 2008, before he had been diagnosed. He speaks of the timing of writing a memoir. Too early? That may end up being awkward. He worried that there was always the possibility that the project was begun too late. As it turns out, his timing was, unfortunately, perfect. He tells a story of a recent article in which he was mistakenly referred to as the late Christopher Hitchens, and how deeply disturbing being killed off by an editing error can be. He jokes about his own obituary and how he’s sure it is already written. It was tough to listen to…

I made my way through the day occasionally reading wonderfully written tributes (http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/christopher-hitchens), occasionally coming across nauseating and condescending comments (shit stain Rick Warren: “Hitchens has died. I loved & prayed for him & grieve his loss. He knows the Truth now.”). I was in a deep funk all day. If you are a Republican, this is how you felt when Reagan died; Catholic, Pope John Paul II; technophile, Steve Jobs… you get the idea.

Hitch will live on in his books, essays, lectures and debates. Turn off the shitty reality TV and spend some time with him. You won’t regret it.

I’m drinking to you tonight, Hitch.

 

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Just a post on what I’m currently reading… I’m about halfway through Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie and it’s amazing. I’ve never read anything like it before.

I was mostly unfamiliar with Rushdie’s work until I read Christopher Hitchens’s memoir Hitch-22. Hitchens spoke highly of Rushdie. They have been close friends since the eighties. I have immense respect and admiration for Hitchens (and I’m sure I’ll have at least one post about him in the near future). I’m guessing (I may be wrong) that most people like me who know the name Salman Rushdie know it from his 1988 work The Satanic Verses and the controversy and violent protests that erupted because of it. Muslims in several countries issued death threats and the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Khomeini, issued a fatwa against Rushdie, calling for his death. In Hitch-22 Hitchens devotes a chapter to Rushdie simply entitled “Salman” and he tells of the time he put Rushdie up at his apartment after the fatwa. I had to learn more about this guy.

Rushdie joined twitter on September 14, 2011 and I’ve been following him since then (@SalmanRushdie). I soon learned that he had been working with director Deepa Mehta (@IamdeepaMehta) on a cinematic production of Midnight’s Children. I wanted to know more. Midnight’s Children was his second novel. He was younger than I am now when he wrote it. From his Wikipedia entry:

This work won the 1981 Booker Prize and, in 1993 and 2008, was awarded the Best of the Bookers as the best novel to have received the prize during its first 25 and 40 years. Midnight’s Children follows the life of a child, born at the stroke of midnight as India gained its independence, who is endowed with special powers and a connection to other children born at the dawn of a new and tumultuous age in the history of the Indian sub-continent and the birth of the modern nation of India. The character of Saleem Sinai has been compared to Rushdie.

I’m nearly 300 pages into it and I can’t put it down. Before starting it I read (okay, listened to on audio book) his Step Across This Line: Collected Nonfiction 1992 – 2002. I felt I had gotten to know Rushdie a bit and was ready to dive into Midnight’s Children. Now I only wish I could get more pages in at every opportunity I have to sit down and read. Last week I spent every lunch hour alone with the book.

Okay, writing this is keeping me from reading. I will queue up some more on the book to post at a later date. Please, if you’ve read any Rushdie, let me know in the comments.