This morning brought news of the death of Christopher Hitchens, the most notorious and aggressive atheist on the planet and a conversationalist, wordsmith and bon vivant of the highest order.
I did not know Hitch well. He lived up the street from Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe during my time there and he would stop in with some frequency and was kind enough to have me to his home on occasion. When the book "Primary Colors" came out, written by "Anonymous," Hitchens naughtily agreed to do a book signing at Kramers even though he had not penned the work. We both drank and smoked heavily as he sat at the table, signing "anonymous" on the books presented to him. The whole event was fun and hilarious. Indeed, I cannot remember a time when I did not have fun with Hitch. He was smart, astoundingly funny, and deeply, if unevenly, learned.
Hitchens was more than fun. He was kind. I remember one brunch, I was standing at the window where the food came out of the kitchen, placing pieces of fruit on the plates of quiche and omelets. I heard Hitch's familiar voice behind me saying, "Michael, come here. There is someone I want you to meet." I went around the corner and was introduced to Salman Rushdie. This was shortly after the publication of the "Satanic Verses" and the subsequent fatwa against Rushdie. Many more famous people were reluctant to meet him because of that. I was delighted and the three of us sat down and chatted for an hour about British and American politics, my commitment to Catholicism, and a host of other timely topics.
Hitchens seemed somewhat intrigued by the fierceness of my commitment to Catholicism, but he never let his hostility to religion get in the way. And, neither did I. I am glad for it. This morning, I am sad but also filled with some very happy memories. There are many people who knew him far better than me, and I am sure they have more memories too. I hope the God of All Consolation will come to their aid and that the Father of Mercies will look kindly upon someone who looked so unkindly on Him. If God has the sense of humor I hope He does, I am sure He will not consign Hitch to hellfire. He is too much fun not to have around.