Yes, the party without Christopher Hitchens is clearly far less interesting, and even though there is, equally as clearly, nothing we can do to fill that hole, I find myself among the cadre – a rather larger cadre than Hitchens might have expected – of folks reading and watching all the Hitch we can get our eyes on.
In one of my recent sessions with Hitch, I watched Brian Lamb, in a 1992 Q&A episode with Hitchens and John Fund, hold up, in typical Q&A fashion, a headline. You know, where Lamb holds up and the camera zooms in on a newspaper or periodical headline. I especially like those zooms. Starting at a point where only Superman could read the text, and then flying in to the point where we mere mortals see the topic come into visual focus. Where, although we don’t yet know Lamb’s question, we know, because we can see in print, its context.
There are several things, really delicious things, going on with the observer right at that moment. In rapider-fire succession than I can conceive, there is the visual focus moment followed by the one where the eyes and thinking brain connect. The moment where one becomes aware that the “engage” button in the brain has been depressed. Cool moment that is.
Could it get any better? Well, yes, because that moment is followed by Lamb’s asking of the question, and then the next, where we mortals take a last anticipatory inhale as we watch Hitch begin to formulate his answer.
I think the thing, or one thing, we Hitchens admirers have in common, is finding that “engage” button’s being depressed every time and all of the time that we spent with Hitchens. Whether in person (I never experienced that), on-screen, on audio, or in print. And loving it.
But I see now that he’s gone, and at no inconsiderable risk that this will sound like if not turn into a what-I-learned-from-Hitch piece, that I must generate more “engage” moments now. On my own. This what appears to be an all-of-a-sudden need to think probably doesn’t apply to all of you or maybe even many of you. You think more than I do. But since I am more than a bit of a couch potato and likely to be counted on the lowest rung of the Hitchens Admirers ladder, I haven’t exactly had it, that is, my engage, on.
Resources for engagement:
- Public library. I checked out the Thomas Paine book from the library just before Christmas (and confess to missing the beautiful old wooden card catalog).
- Magazine subscriptions. I now have a subscription to Harper’s for one year, during which time I will have access to the current year’s and archives of all previously published work, including all of Hitchens. The same appears to hold true for archives of articles in The Nation. Although the Hitchens articles in Vanity Fair appear to be available online, I can’t tell whether the online and print versions are a layover. Slate offers up its collection of his articles. I do not know how complete a collection it is. Richard Lea at The Guardian has already highlighted the online written Hitchens, so please look there before you consider your search complete.
- The blog The Film Archive. Whatever else it does (I have barely scratched its surface), it captures in the 10-minute segments common for, if not required by, YouTube, the episodes, laid out back-to-back, of Hitchens being interviewed on C-SPAN and elsewhere, including the January 12, 1992 Q&A segment with Hitchens and John Fund; and
- C-SPAN online archive of sessions with Hitch, including his last Q&A with Brian Lamb made nearly twenty years to the day after the one last referenced.
So, as I compile my Hitchens and other engagement sources, I want to express my appreciation to everyone responsible for access to his work and to everyone in Hitchens’ life.
I’ve got lots of reading to. But don’t get the impression that I expect to become “anything like” truly well-read any time soon. Or ever. What I’d still prefer is reading enough to have an inkling of what Hitch is pointing to as he talks, sitting in perfect couch potato position, and listening to him.