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Just Enough Hitch, for a Day

A few favorite essays

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There is quite simply no other individual writer I spent so much time reading than Christopher Hitchens (who was, let’s not forget, a Tablet Magazine contributor). In addition to the sheer fun of his prose and the quality of his thought, there are three more logistical reasons for this: 1. He was more prolific than anyone else; 2. Much of what he published, particularly over the last ten or 15 years, was and is readily available for free online, especially if you know where to look; and 3. He rewarded, believe it or not, rereading. I would add a fourth reason: when you read a Christopher Hitchens essay, you knew you would always get another piece of great writing out of it. That is, you always knew his erudition and sense of fun would compel him to cite one (actually, usually several) other works, which you would then find yourself Googling and enjoying. In this manner did I discover W.H. Auden’s “Under Which Lyre” (with its distinctly un-Hitch-like advice, “Read The New Yorker, trust in God”), for example, as well as the novels of André Malraux and his best friend Martin Amis’ Money. I wonder if this obvious ink-stained wretch knew how perfectly suited he was to hyperspace?

Anyway, the following list of favorite Hitchens essays available online surely doesn’t include them all: There are too many, and some no doubt did not spring to mind fast enough. But I hope they help get you through the day. They’ll be helping me.

• “A Death in the Family.” On a young man who was inspired by Hitchens’ writing to enlist, and then was killed in action in Iraq. [VF]

• “The Old Man.” On Trotsky. [The Atlantic]

• “Stand Up For Denmark!” On the cartoon controversy. [Slate]

• “I Fought the Law.” On Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s nanny state. [VF]

• “Where Aquarius Went.” On the Sixties. [NYT Book Review]

• “It Happened on Sunset.” On L.A. [VF by way of Google Books]

• “The Acutest Ear in Paris.” On Proust (whom Hitchens wanted to write a book about). [The Atlantic]

• “Unspoken Truths.” On literally losing one’s voice. [VF]

• “Let Me Say This About That.” On Nixon. [NYT Book Review]

• “Susan Sontag.” An obituary. [Slate]

• “Unfairenheit 9/11.” On Michael Moore. [Slate]

• “It Happened on Sunset.” On L.A. [VF by way of Google Books]

• “Thinking Like an Apparatchik.” On his controversy with Sid Blumenthal. [The Atlantic]

• “Mel Gibson’s Meltdown.” On Mel Gibson. [Slate]

• “Commentary’s Scurrilous Attack on Edward Said.” On his friend (with whom he disagreed about much). [Salon]

• “Joyce in Bloom.” On Ulysses. [VF]

• “Israel Shahak, 1933-2001.” On his friend. [The Nation]

• “Reactionary Prophet.” On Edmund Burke. [The Atlantic]

• “The Fugitive.” On Kissinger. [The Nation]

• “Arafat’s Squalid End.” An obit of sorts. [Slate]

• On Mother Teresa (he was not a fan). [Salon]

• “What Crisis?” On the disputed 2000 presidential election. [The Nation]

• “Clean Gene.” On Eugene McCarthy. [Slate]

OK, I’ll stop for now.

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Christopher Orev says:

Thank you for posting this Hitchens roundup. I agree with you, Marc, that his writing is superb. Even when I disagreed with his stance — not rarely — I relished his arguments, reviews, histories….all of it. RIP, Mr. Hitchens. Your wit and insight will be missed.

MonkFish says:

Hitchens was a towering figure and a hero for those of the left, like myself, who still cling to liberal-democratic values (our numbers are fast dwindling). I trust you’ll be including his memorable assault on Hannukah in your special festival section this month.

“Thus, to celebrate Hanukkah is to celebrate not just the triumph of tribal Jewish backwardness but also the accidental birth of Judaism’s bastard child in the shape of Christianity.”

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/fighting_words/2007/12/bah_hanukkah.html

Lynne T says:

MonkFish:

Many of Hitchens’s writings are worth celebrating, but not his childish diatribe against Hanukah that absurdly depicts the occupying forces as progressives and the fairly cosmopolitan and tolerant Hebrews as backward and tribal for drawing a line against what the occupiers could impose on them.

MonkFish says:

@Lynne T

I’m inclined to agree with your appraisal of the Slate article, which distorts history and anachronistically judges the festival by modern standards. But consider for one moment how ignorant most US Jews are of the Maccabean revolt, the many ways in which the behaviour of the Maccabee clan contravenes traditional Jewish ethics (murdering a Jew, even a Hellenistic one = not Kosher), and the strong resonances with modern Jewish nationalism. It’s the perfect spark for an interesting conversation which I, were I a mag editor or Jewish educator, would readily use.

Christopher Orev says:

Amen, Monkfish. It drives me crazy that most Jews don’t realize how complicated a political story Hanukkah is!

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A few favorite essays

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