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December 19, 2011

The Hitchens post


by Josh Bernoff

Christopher Hitchens just died.

By all accounts he was an irascible, hard-drinking pain in the ass.

In print, he took on the likes of God, Mother Theresa, Bill and Hillary Clinton, and Henry Kissinger. Here was a man who had an infinite supply of courage, a razor wit, and the irresistible drive to use it.

I know Hitchens only through reading him. The argumentation is brilliant, the prose uneven but driven, and the result . . . 

The result is that now that he's gone, he has left an indelible mark, almost exclusively by writing.

Learn from that. Be not afraid, and it's better to leave to a mark.

This inspires me. I'll be 62 (as he was) in 9 short years, and I don't want to be forgotten.



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J. Savoy

Mother Theresa has also left a mark. How about aspiring to that?

Simon West

The prose uneven? I think most would take issue with that; he was one of the most erudite and articulate writers of the last half-century. The prose frequently bolstered some fairly problematic arguments, in my view.

Josh Bernoff

Great comments, guys. Regarding Mother Theresa, sure she left a mark -- it's just that as a writer I'm more likely to be remembered as something like Hitchens (since I'm certainly no Mother Theresa).

As for the prose, I would say that erudite and articulate does not contradict uneven. Other writers are a much smoother, more elegant read. Hitchens is provocative, it's never easy to read his prose -- but that's the point. As a reader, you have to engage with it.

I am teaching young writers now. In general they need to learn to be more provocative and more interesting. Should they aspire to Gladwell or Hitchens? Depends on your objectives.

Pankaj Taneja

Apart from his writing, he was also known for his brilliant debating skills. I've been following him for years, and disagreed with him every minute. Yet, I had a sinking feeling in my pit when i learnt of his demise.

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