I was preoccupied with other things when I heard of Christopher Hitchens's death last Friday, and, while it was far from unexpected, thinking about that event provokes a kind of blue funk that will keep me from writing all but the most cursory of notes.
But I feel that I should say something.
First, if there was one writer and essayist who has by turns intrigued, influenced, inspired and infuriated me since my days as a rather earnestly 'political' teenager in the mid-1980s, it was he. I didn't always agree with his conclusions; however, I found that even -- perhaps especially -- at those times, it was worthwhile engaging with his arguments: if I remained unconvinced, I at least had to think much harder about why that was so.
I'd like to think that what I lost in terms of comfortable self-righteousness I gained with regard to rigorous self-criticism.
Second, I had the pleasure of not only making his acquaintance but also, in what now seems like an episode from another world, of enjoying his (and his wife's) hospitality at their home in Washington, DC. Despite his rather formidable public persona, Christopher, I learned first-hand, was in no way short of warmth, humour and generosity. He recalled that dinner when I wrote him not long ago to express my dismay at his illness.
That will all remain a very fond memory.
But I'm going to miss reading his views and hearing his voice.
Ian McEwan's farewell is well worth reading, as are the others gathered or mentioned by Norm and Terry.