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December 16, 2011

TT: For the record

I had lunch with Christopher Hitchens in 2000 at the behest of a mutual friend, and didn't like him at all. Though he was perfectly nice to me, Hitchens struck me as snobbish and vain, the very model of an expatriate Brit frolicking among the ugly Americans at whom he delighted to sneer. We never met again.

Two years later, he gave my biography of H.L. Mencken an indifferent review in the New York Times. It may or may not have prejudiced me against his essays, which too often struck me as self-consciously contrarian rather than expressive of deep-seated convictions, of which I frankly doubt he had all that many.

I did, however, greatly admire (as who did not?) the courage with which he faced his fast-approaching end, as well as the stylish eloquence with which he described it in print. We should all be so brave--and so honest.

Ave atque vale.

UPDATE: In case you weren't reading this blog in 2005, here's something I wrote back then about speaking ill of the recently dead. As you can see, I haven't changed my mind--and Hitchens would have agreed with me.

Posted December 16, 2011 8:20 PM

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