Christopher Hitchens succumbed to cancer of the oesophagus last week, at the age of 62. He died in Texas, of all places, which I personally felt was kind of apt.
Why apt? Texas is a place of extremes -- extremes of weather, terrain, people, and events. Hitchens has been eulogized, even lionized in the (American) press as an extreme contrarian, a man for whom nothing was sacred, not even Mother Teresa or Princess Diana -- or even his long-held left wing ideals, which he ditched with utter finality when he came out in support of President George W. Bush's War on Terror, after September 11th.
I can't say I had much admiration for Hitchens, though his last stand against religion and superstition was courageous. He did seem a bilious, unpleasant type, at least in public. Also, I feel that his adulation in some quarters of U.S. society came from the well-known American tendency to be suckers for anything and everything that comes with an English accent. And I feel that in argument, he wielded an intellectual bludgeon, where perhaps a sharp stick might have worked just as well. The hideous monsters he took arms against (the Catholic Church, religious bigots, Henry Kissinger) would never have afforded him nor anyone, graciousness in defeat, but that is no reason for him to be ungracious. If you're going to kill a man's argument, it seems unkind to not give him an arm up out of the hole he dug himself.
As it was clear he was suffering terribly from the effects of his cancer and treatments, Hitchens physically looked terrible, so in deference to all our vanities, here is a photo of him in his heyday, the piercing stare, pursed lips, "Looking as if she were alive..." Or about to explode!
UPDATE: Others with greater insight have committed their Hitchens hatchet-jobs to the public sphere, including this conclusion, bringing us back to the lone-star state: "the older Hitchens was so full of shit that you could use him to fertilise all of Texas for decades."
Indeed. In 2006, one of his Vanity Fair columns trumpeted a study that he said claimed to show that women had less of a sense of humor than men. There followed an unfounded, uncalled for, appalling screed of misogyny:
There are more terrible female comedians than there are terrible male comedians, but there are some impressive ladies out there. Most of them, though, when you come to review the situation, are hefty or dykey or Jewish, or some combo of the three.