Charlie Rose’s memorial to Hitchens

April 17, 2012 • 4:03 am

Don’t miss this. The Charlie Rose show has posted its 53-minute video about Hitchens that was broadcast last Friday. The video, which you can watch here (click on the picture of Hitch), features his friends Martin Amis, James Fenton, Salman Rushdie, and Ian McEwan. It is well worth watching.

Rose is a consummate host, asking incisive questions and then withdrawing, larding the discussion with clips of Hitchens himself.  As the talk continues around the table, it’s almost as if these four friends come to new realizations about Hitchens himself.

The brief discussion of religion, staring at about 20 minutes in, is quite interesting, particularly Rushdie’s take. And there’s some intriguing speculation about why Hitchens never wrote fiction. A discussion of his use of booze and smokes begins at 33:50. Finally, at 41 minutes in, they begin a moving discussion of his illness and death—things we haven’t heard before. (McEwan gives an incredibly touching vignette at 44:03.) At 49:15, Amis says, “I saw him die,” and then describes how.

It’s a wonderful memorial, and shows what a rich life the man had.

h/t: Hempenstein

22 thoughts on “Charlie Rose’s memorial to Hitchens

  1. I’ll probably watch, but in principle I find hagiographies irritating.

    Hitchens was undoubtedly a very smart man and a powerful advocate of atheism; he also wrote some incisive books on American foreign policy in the ’80s and probably the best book on the 1974 invasion and partial ethnic cleansing of the island of Cyprus by Turkish troops. However, I find it hard to forgive Hitchens for his support of Bush and the Iraq catastrophe. I try to have patience with people who disagree with me on politics, but his comments on the Dixie Chicks were disgusting when he was alive and remain disgusting now that he’s dead.

    1. Don’t make presumptions until you’ve seen it. In fact, his friends disagree in this show with Hitchens’s stand on Iraq. And what about all the stands he took that were good–you efface them all because of one political stand he took?

        1. No, you do not efface all the good someone has done because of one trespass, but at the same time death should not be an absolution of all the wrong someone has done.

          My problem is with hagiographies. While he was alive, there have been many rational people who agreed with Hitchens on atheism but were mortified with Hitchens’ virulent attacks on opponents of the Iraq war and mystified that he never admitted to being very wrong on a policy that cost so many thousands of lives. Once he died, some of these same people seem to have forgotten that rationalists should never elevate anyone to secular sainthood.

          As I said, I’ll probably watch. My criticism is general and I can’t pass judgement on something I haven’t seen.

          1. I very much agree with you, Jon. Much of Hitchens’ writing is brilliant: ‘god is not great’ is an excellent book, and his evisceration of the Mother Teresa myth is wonderful, but, like you, I find his support for Bush over Iraq, his disgusting attack on the Dixie Chicks, and his refusal to reconsider his support for the war in or on Iraq in the light of the culpable incompetence of Bush/Cheney/Rumsfield in their prosecution of it, an incompetence that cost thousands of lives, Iraqi and American, and has led, in Iraq, to a huge displacement of people, not merely hard to accept but unacceptable, particularly from someone who, in ‘god is not great’ and other writings made so much of his possession of strong and unbendable moral convictions. Hitchens surely was in many ways a good man, but he could also be culpably silly and arrogant. Of his friends’ obituaries (as you might call them) I find Rushdie’s by far the best, though McEwan is a good man and a good writer. I have never been able to find much of interest in Martin Amis’s thought or work: a silly, arrogant little Osric, running about with his shell on his head and a chip on his shoulder.

            1. Have watched the programme and found it good and moving, though it did not, I fear, improve my opinion of Martin Amis (though neither did it worsen it).

          2. …. but at the same time death should not be an absolution of all the wrong someone has done.

            Absolutely. CH said much the same thing himself more than once. And he definitely had no issues with “speaking ill” of the dead when he felt there was good reason to.

            One of his more admirable moments, for me, was when he calmly stated “If you gave Falwell an enema you could buy him in a matchbox” while a couple of Falwell admirers where trying to drown him out.

  2. Quite a loss. The program refreshed my admiration for Hitch and renewed my inspiration to get out and live life. He did grab life by the throat, didn’t he?

  3. I will certainly watch. While I didn’t agree with Hitch about Iraq I respected his reasons for supporting it, he was mistaken but not evil. He thought a happy outcome was probable, I didn’t. Unfortunately I was right but that doesn’t make me a better person, just less blinded by wishful thinking and the urgings of those with a vested interest in regime change.

    Hitch was magnificent and is a huge loss. The tribute to him at the GAC on Sunday was very moving too. No doubt it will be online shortly, I recommend it.

    1. But the trouble was that he persisted in his support for the war, I suspect out of vanity, and minimised the damage done even when the sheer incompetence of the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld prosecution of the war was more than clear… There is much that was admirable about Hitch, but that was not.

  4. “I’m leaving the party a little earlier than I would wish…”

    Not bad. I might use that myself when the time comes.

    Lots of disagreement on his Iraq stance but you have to admire his courage as Ian McEwan says “…to make a good death”.

  5. It’s notable that, as Rushdie explains, that Hitch asked to be set up with adversaries on his book tours. No complaints there about audiences being loaded against him.

  6. This is a must watch. Delightful, happy, honest discussion about a nfriend these men have obvious respect and genuine affection for. It confirmed much of what I thought about Hitch and showed what a likeable character he could be without sugar coating anything just as Hitch would not have sugar coated any discussion of his life. Honest, humorous discussion of the life of a an interesting genius.

    1. Yes, I agree. The best part of this is the image of friendship among all these men. I wish to have such a troop of supporters in my last days.

  7. The discussion of his sexuality was cool as well. I’ve seen people regard Hitchens as this ultra hetero guy, probably due to his pugnacity and capacity for (elegantly phrased) locker-room humor. But as he candidly writes in his memoir, and as Amis implies, he enjoyed romantic attraction to both men and women. In his NYTimes Magazine interview, he said more men should talk about their experience being what he called “a little bit gay.” (Qtd. from memory.) It makes him that much more interesting a figue. And maybe it even helped shape his characteristic empathy. (But apparently there was no mercy for cab drivers who didn’t know where the natural history museum was, as McEwan’s anecdote reveals…)

    In addition to Hitchens: I look at the group around that table, and wow: I cannot count the number of hours of sheer pleasure those writers have given me. Between Rushdie’s novels, Atonement, and Fenton’s early poems…there’s some of the best reading experiences of my life right there. Nice to see that these brilliant writers were also good at friendship.

  8. I’m glad Rose had the roundtable. It gave me a few insights into Hitchens that I wouldn’t have had.

  9. Rose is a consummate host, asking incisive questions and then withdrawing…
    First time for everything… Was Rose humble and unself-satisfied as well?

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