Despite His Health, Christopher Hitchens Is Still As Awesome As Ever

I missed his talk at the Texas Freethought Convention/Atheist Alliance of America convention this weekend, but it sounds like Christopher Hitchens was in excellent form even if his health didn’t match his verbal ferocity. PZ was there and said this:

He was looking frail and thin, his voice was husky, but he was amazingly strong. He gave a wonderful, fiery, eloquent acceptance speech, and then he took questions for almost an hour — and he was willing to go on longer and seemed grateful for an opportunity to talk to the public again. He was fierce, courageous, and well-spoken as always, and kept the audience awed and inspired the whole time.

Hopefully, video of his talk will come out soon.

You want evidence of how awesome he is? Despite the massive crowd wanting to get a little bit of his time, he spent fifteen minutes speaking with an inquisitive 8-year-old girl:

Though he was asked a variety of questions from the audience, none appeared to elicit more interest than the one asked by eight-year-old Mason Crumpacker, who wanted to know what books she should read. In response, Hitchens first asked where her mother was and the girl indicated that she was siting beside her. He then asked to see them once the presentation was over so that he could give her a list.

As the event drew to a close, Mason and her mom, Anne Crumpacker of Dallas, followed him out. Surrounded by attendees wanting a glance of the famed author, Hitchens sat on a table just outside of the ballroom and spent about 15 minutes recommending books to Mason.

You can see his recommendations here.

The New York TimesMichael Stravato got a picture of Hitchens walking alongside director Matthew Chapman, Richard Dawkins, and Hitchens’ wife Carol Blue:

The TimesCharles McGrath added:

Mr. Hitchens is gaunt these days, no longer barrel-chested. His voice is softer than it used to be, and for the second time since he began treatment, he has lost most of his hair. Once such an enthusiastic smoker that he would light up in the shower, he gave up cigarettes a couple of years ago. Even more inconceivable to many of his friends, Mr. Hitchens, who used to thrive on whiskey the way a bee thrives on nectar, hasn’t had a drink since July, when a feeding tube was installed in his stomach. “That’s the most depressing aspect,” he said. “The taste is gone. I don’t even want to. It’s incredible what you can get used to.”

Hitchens without whiskey? Unthinkable…

I had the opportunity to meet him about five years ago, just before the release of God is Not Great. I remember asking him how his book was going to be any different from Dawkins’ The God Delusion.

The response was short and to the point: “It’ll be better.”

And he was proved right (at least by one metric) when his book went to the top of the NYT Bestsellers list a few weeks after it was released.

(Thanks to George for fixing the red eye in my picture!)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Zachary Moore

    It’s true, Hitch kept the entire room entranced. We wanted it to go on forever, and I think he did as well. I had spent the day with Mason and the other fantastic kids in the Camp Quest Texas mini-camp program. They’re all such wonderful, smart, energetic kids. I fully expect them all to be running and speaking at these conventions in twenty years’ time.

  • http://eternalbookshelf.wordpress.com Ani Sharmin

    Glad to hear he’s still speaking out, despite his health.  That part about him recommending books to the 8-year-old girl is just so sweet.  Seriously, though, I think that was an excellent question on her part — what better to ask someone who seems to read so much?

    • Rich Wilson

      Hopefully that list will be made public.

      • http://eternalbookshelf.wordpress.com Ani Sharmin

        If you click on the “see his recommendations here” link in Hemant’s post and scroll to the bottom of the article, the list is there.

        Hitchens’ list of books and authors: Dawkins’ Magic of Reality, Greek and Roman myths, particularly those compiled by Robert Graves, anything satirical by Shakespeare, Geoffrey Chaucer, Ayaan Hirsi Ali (author of Infidel and Nomad: From Islam to America: A Personal Journey Through the Clash of Civilizations), PG Wodehouse (“for fun”), David Hume, and Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_PWD2M7I7UITLRE24Q4PJ3XZDSU KeriB

    I was 5th in line at the book signing and got my copy of God is Not Great signed. I was so shocked at how frail he is now. I got emotional afterwards, seeing such a brilliant man in such bad shape.

  • Bob Becker

    On the list:   Two things struck me. First, he recommended none of his own books [not surprising].  Second:  Hume?  For an eight year old?  Ah, no.  I don’t think so.  

    Having just read Hitchen’s essay on the KJV in “Arguably,”  I’m a little surprised he didn’t include it as well.

    Can’t help wondering if the question hadn’t come from an eight year old, but had been the old desert island question ["You're going to be marooned on a desert and you know it and can take only twelve books with you. Which twelve would you take?'], framed for adults, what he would have included, and so as well what he would have excluded, and why. 

    • ACN

      Haha, I was actually more worried about the difficulty of getting through the Chaucer than the Hume! :)

      I took this this as less of a “what should I read this summer”, but rather as a “what are some things that I *have* to have read, broadly”. The bar is high, and I’m sure she’ll rise to the occasion :)

      • AM

        Knowing Mason and her parents, I would find it most surprising in the least that she would struggle with either Chaucer or Hume. There are so many wonderful writers out there who understand what appreciation some of the younger audience has for what is considered to be above their age level, that they have contributed some excellent child friendly versions. My 10-year old loves Chaucer, Shakespeare, H G Wells, etc.

  • Anonymous

    This may sound a little strange, but except for the absence of hair, Hitchens looks paradoxically good, at least in photographs. He’s lost a lot of weight, and he’s also missing the perpetually drunk look he used to have. Not smoking or drinking is good for you, even if it’s due to something horrific. I’m sure his frailty is more evident in person, but at least in pictures he looks younger.

    I love the story about the kid, though I think certain aspects of Ayaan Hirsi Ali might be a bit, err, “strong” for an eight-year-old. I’m guessing that if Mason is a Camp Quest kid with the idea of asking what to read, her parents are  likely already teaching her Greek and Roman mythology. It’s a great list for all of us, not just Mason.

  • http://www.facebook.com/AnonymousBoy Larry Meredith

    that is one lucky Crumpacker.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1091269762 Angelo Palma

    At Zachary, I have other hopes for these kids, they will our elected representatives rather than speaking at conventions sounds a lot better, and yes you are right a wonderful group of young people.
    I was the one taking questions from the audience and when Mason tapped my shoulder, I asked her “Am I sitting on your chair?” and she replied….I want to ask a question, I replied…Well then, let’s get you on top of the chair so he can see you.
    A great experience that I will not forget.

  • Bryan

    A video of the talk appears to be at the same link his recommendations are at: http://blog.chron.com/partisangridlock/2011/10/christopher-hitchens-makes-first-public-appearance-in-months/

  • Ladycopper5

    So lucky all of you who were there!  And how sweet of him to make those recommendations – I am guessing they are recommendations for her to *eventually* read, of course.  Hitch is one of my heroes.

  • Colin

    I can’t help but think of a parallel to that Urban Myth in which George W Bush supposedly took time out of a campaign event to witness to a 12-year-old boy.  Only, in Hitch’s case, we have, you know, evidence… witnesses, photographic evidence, the list of recommended books.

  • randall.morrison90

    Hichens is a hater.  A war supporter who is unrepetant, even thought the wars have been exposed as frauds.

    You couldn’t kill enough Muslims to keep the bastard happy.

    He looks like he is dying, so the special medical treatments he got aren’t going to buy him all that much time.

  • Mail@yoga-eu.net

    This post comes across as hagiography in the making. This is how religions start, hero worship, cloying cults of personality. Some people really need to get over Hitchens to avoid becoming fecunds themselves

  • Mail@yoga-eu.net

    This post comes across as hagiography in the making. This is how religions start, hero worship, cloying cults of personality. Some people really need to get over Hitchens to avoid becoming fecunds themselves

  • cstuarthardwick

    I posted my video of Mr. Hitchens chatting with Mason here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=erFI2VZvETA


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