Friday, December 16, 2011

Literary Loss

Once a socialist, but also a fervent supporter of Persian Gulf War II, and always a biting wit, writer and author Christopher Hitchens died on Thursday of pneumonia brought on by esophageal cancer.

Hitchens was a fervent critic of Christianity, a difficult position to defend, and boldly called Mother Teresa "a fanatic, a fundamentalist, and a fraud," a position he defended quite well. It was hardly surprising, therefore, that his passing brought at least two tasteless reactions. According to Crooks and Liars, conservative Republican radio host Bill Bennett commented "He was left, I was right, but we had great debates, great drinking bouts. And I hope as the big atheist that he was, he's in for a big surprise."

Yes, always fun to wish Hell on a friend upon his death. Similarly, evangelical minister and literary sensation Rick Warren tweeted " My friend Christopher Hitchens has died. I loved & prayed for him constantly & grieve his loss. He knows the Truth now."

Now, that's the ticket. Roman Catholic Bennett prays for a fiery eternal existence for his friend while Protestant Warren gloats. Ecumenism, of a sort.

But at least one unbeliever, famed atheist Richard Dawkins, took his own opportunity to score points, tweeting" Christopher Hitchens, finest orator of our time, fellow horseman, valiant fighter against all tyrants including God."

Meanwhile, center-right columnist and ex-speechwriter David Frum, who never aspired to public display of religiosity nor its denial, tells of when

A friend of theirs once took Christopher Hitchens and his wife Carol Blue to dinner at Palm Beach’s Everglades Club, notorious for its exclusion of Jews.

“You will behave, won’t you?” Carol anxiously asked Christopher on the way into the club. No dice. When the headwaiter approached, Christopher demanded: “Do you have a kosher menu?”

And then, as only a writer and speechwriter could, Frum concludes with what would be a fitting epitaph for his friend Hitchens, who

offered a model of how to think – and how to live. Fully. Fearlessly. Joyously. And then, alas too soon, of how to die: without bluster but without flinching, boldly writing until the fingers moved no more.

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