I don’t know what I think about Christopher Hitchens. And I suspect that a lot of young, left-leaning intellectuals feel that way.

He still sometimes describes  himself as a “soixante-huitard” and life a revolutionary-cum-public intellectual is one any would be poet worth his or her salt aspires.

But…

The whole Iraq war thing.

And it is clear that he welcomes my feelings of discomfort – which are mixture of disgust, a sense of betrayal, and raw envy. This is also compounded by my own Catholic faith and his own (and my once) strongly felt atheism.

I also wonder if Hitchens is not the Arthur Koestler of the those generations who came of age after Stalin? Will Hitchens, like Koestler, fade into a sort of gentle obscurity as the wars he gave his life over to cease to have meaning? Not just the Iraq war, but his polemics on such ultimately ephemeral figures as Mother Theresa and and President Bill Clinton. Which of his writings will survive?

My Aunt Millie gave me a copy of Letters to a Young Contrarian one Christmas. This seems to me to be the most likely to survive, though I could not take much of his advice. And perhaps, because I could not, it is not just envy and betrayal, but also shame he inspires.

But don’t we also want him to feel ashamed, too?

Anyway.

He is dying. His rakish hair is gone, but he still has the insouciance of a classic bad boy intellectual.

I don’t know how I should feel. In a strange way, I am reminded of the way I did not know what to feel when Hunter S. Thompson died. He was a larger than life figure from my adolescence I had outgrown by the time of his death.

That’s all. Except that maybe I’ll re-read Hitchens’ Letters.

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