Christopher Hitchens, 1949-2011

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12/16/2011 1:27 PM |

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“Does the rhyme suggest a reason?” Christopher Hitchens, who died last night, asks about an old aphorism of Nietzsche’s in what has turned out to be his last piece for Vanity Fair.

These Vanity Fair pieces, like Updike’s last poems, have been revelatory. Death is the one experience that can’t be written about in hindsight—in the last few days, hours, or minutes, everyone enters the last territory still uncharted by the arts—but Hitchens was supremely attentive to his own body, mind and memory almost up to the very end, and he reported back to us in that extravagantly frank voice of his. He wrote beautifully.

So to circle back now to his question of rhyme and reason: I’m surprised and gratified that Hitch thought to ask, because there were moments, I suspect, when his eloquence succeeded in convincing him of the essential truth of his own worst notions. Just because you never lose an argument doesn’t mean you’re always right.