Martin Amis on Christopher Hitchens: "Common Sense Was Not His Beat"
|Photo: Dafydd Jones, Courtesy Telegraph|
|Hitchens and Carol Blue, 1995|
Hitchens certainly crammed quite a bit of living into his 62 years. Amis takes comfort in this, adding on all the hours that Hitchens never slept because "he so loved life." To Amis, "He died at the age of 75."
"That cheers me up a bit," Blue said, "but what if he'd lived to 90?"
That love of life famously included a love of drink. "You had to think he was a different species," Amis said. When Amis would stagger home in a stupor, Hitchens would leave him to grind out another perfectly articulated piece. "He was not human, what he could do after such punishment."
Blue took pains to insist that Hitchens kept his prodigious drinking to a regimented schedule and that she had only ever seen him drunk "two or three times." Amis agreed, saying that "in over 40 years, I saw him drunk maybe twice."
Hitchens's writing was greatly admired by Amis, their close friend Ian McEwan and quite a few other novelists, many of whom would ask Amis why Hitchens never published any fiction.
"He had the phrasing and ability, he could dream himself into another person. He had the prerequisites." But McEwan surmised that Hitchens did not want to spend time "making things up."
"He wanted to write about Proust and who knows what else," Blue said. "He might have gotten to it."
"Fiction makes nothing happen," Amis disagreed. "Something goes seriously wrong when a novel interferes with the normal life."
|Courtesy Twelve Books|
|Hitchens and Amis with their children in Cape Code, 1985|
The two friends had a habit of seeking out "the most violent and horrifying movie available" and as Amis recalled of a trip to the Hamptons, they were "pathetically reduced to Wesley Snipes."
As they walked to the movie theater, Amis said, "No one's recognized you for ten minutes."
"It's been 15," Hitchens morosely said. "What do they know, what do they care, what do they feel if they don't recognize the Hitch?"
But back in front of that movie theater, Hitchens was at long last recognized by an American couple who asked him, of their fellow Americans, "Do you love us or do you hate us?"
Hitchens replied, "It all depends on how you behave." This, Amis said, "suggests a more logical person than he was."
|Photo: Gasper Tringale, courtesy Vanity Fair|
Even so, "I always felt he had a superior love of life," Amis said. Blue added that she "respected it and slightly envied it."
Though he attributed some of the feeling to survivor guilt, Amis said that after his friend's death, "the world sort of tingled." He believes he has "a solemn and sacred duty" to enjoy life on behalf of Hitchens now.
Looking out at the packed crowd, easily one of the largest of the whole fair, Blue asked Amis what he thought Hitchens might make of this "lovefest."
"No more than it's due," Amis said.
Mortality, with an afterword by Carol Blue, and Lionel Asbo: State of England are in bookstores everywhere.
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