What the fuck?? The so called memorial to Hitch, (kicking off the 2012 PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature) so grandly teed up by the host as “what better way to kick off this year’s Festival of World Literature than to honor Christopher Hitchens” turned into a bitch session saying he was too much of a boozer, too opinionated, hated woman, could never admit defeat, arrogant, felt morally superior to everyone and never had an original idea in his life.
I thought this event was going to be in a 5,000 seat theater but instead was in a tiny space holding two hundred people. I sat in this room growing more and more anxious and angry as to to downward slide this memorial was taking. We were suppose to honor him were we not? I understand most people’s need to chip away at our modern day heroes, to bring them down to earth for fear of believing in something greater than our self – heaven for fend! – , but this was not the forum!
During the end of Q&A from the audience, Salman Rushdie got up and in effect yelled at all of them for the turn the evening had taken. His back was to me, but he seemed in tears. I’ll paraphrase poorly, “Since when are strong opinions, compassion, confidence, love, fun bad things? No one uses the word polemic any longer, but this was once a cherished and highly exulted title and Christopher is most certainly deserving of this title.”
I clapped very loudly. Fucking panel of fucking fucks. (This of course is not fair, for they all said wonderful things as well, and spoke truly, especially George Packer who seemed to truly understand Hitch, or at least offered a view of Hitch that respectfully revealed and made one admire the good and bad in Hitch, thus made him human.)
One last note, just before Salman took the stage a man who was Hitch’s publisher for the past seven years and is publishing his final book, got up and told us all about the very final moments of Hitch’s life. He said, “I have not told this to more than a handful of people, but I feel it fitting to do so now. I was with him and his son when he uttered his very final words.” He told it more eloquently and a lot more was said, but basically he got around to relating..again I paraphrase poorly.. “His eyes were starting to close, but he fought to grab a notepad and he scribbled some words on the page. He motioned for his glasses to be placed on his head. He looked at what he had written, then turned the notebook sideways like an Ipad and looked confused. He turned it to me and I saw it was indecipherable scribbling. Hitch then shrugged his shoulders and said, ‘So be it’ barely loud enough to hear. He closed his eyes and then mumbled a word that I had to ask him to repeat. He tried to open his eyes and said softly, ‘Capitalism.’ And then he added ‘destroyed.’ And then he passed.
I don’t think “destroyed” is the word he used. This is close but the actual word was so much better. I got the impression that Hitch meant to say Capitalism is doomed. Perhaps “doomed” was the word?
Anyway.. there you have it. I should have left it at the Charlie Rose tribute.
The Hitch is dead. Long live the Hitch.