Christopher Hitchens: an impossible act to follow


Thanks to FJ for the link.

Onstage, my husband was an impossible act to follow.

If you ever saw him at the podium, you may not share Richard Dawkins’s assessment that “he was the greatest orator of our time”, but you will know what I mean – or at least you won’t think, “She would say that, she’s his wife.”

Offstage, my husband was an impossible act to follow.

At home at one of the raucous, joyous, impromptu eight-hour dinners we often found ourselves hosting, where the table was so crammed with ambassadors, hacks, political dissidents, college students and children that elbows were colliding and it was hard to find the space to put down a glass of wine, my husband would rise to give a toast that could go on for a stirring, spellbinding, hysterically funny 20 minutes of poetry and limerick reciting, a call to arms for a cause, and jokes. “How good it is to be us,” he would say in his perfect voice.

My husband is an impossible act to follow.

And yet, now I must follow him. I have been forced to have the last word.

It was the sort of early summer evening in New York when all you can think of is living. It was June 8 2010, to be exact, the first day of his American book tour. I ran as fast as I could down East 93rd Street, suffused with joy and excitement at the sight of him in his white suit. He was dazzling. He was also dying, though we didn’t know it yet. And we wouldn’t know it for certain until the day of his death.

Earlier that day he had taken a detour from his book launch to a hospital because he thought he was having a heart attack. By the time I saw him standing at the stage entrance of the 92nd Street Y that evening, he and I – and we alone – knew he might have cancer. We embraced in a shadow that only we saw and chose to defy. We were euphoric. He lifted me up and we laughed.

We went into the theatre, where he conquered yet another audience. We managed to get through a jubilant dinner in his honour and set out on a stroll back to our hotel through the perfect Manhattan night, walking more than 50 blocks.

Written By: Carol Blue
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  1. Dear Carol, Though having the last word is always a difficult act, if you ever find you are ready, I would love a biography of Hitch as only you could tell it. It’ll be a very long time before we have the last word on him.

    In the interest of starting new traditions, Physics bless you.

  2. Carol, I have been hoping you would write this very story, well done. More, more, more please. The Warrior would be very pleased for sure. – Peter Primavera

  3. I read the comments at the Telegraph. Whenever you mention Hitch now, someone (usually more than one) brings up his support for the Iraq War. Whether you agreed with him or not, you have to admit his position was well argued. He did not send troops to Iraq, he just had an opinion on whether it was right or not. Many people did. Many people against that war haven’t put their case across as well as Christopher did his. Right or wrong, I always loved listening to or reading his views. I miss him. Very much.

  4. I never met him, yet his influence on me was remarkable. I miss him deeply. I can’t comprehend how much those who knew and loved him must miss him.

  5. Please continue sharing your thoughts and remberences. The recordings of Christopher reading God is not Great and Hitch 22 are two of my most treasured possesions. He will continue to inspire me. Thank you Carol.

  6. Sigh. If Hitch were still with us, the current Republican spectacle in the States would be either less ludicrous (a bit more restrained for fear of Christopher’s verbal swordsmanship) or more ludicrous (by mere comparison with his elegant reasoning). We’ve lost so very much in losing Mr. Hitchens. 

  7. Dear carol, words can’t express how much I was waiting to read something like this from you. Since his death I have been desperately following McEwan, Rushdi, Fry or those whom I know were close to Hitchens on facebook or other websites just to hear more about him. Thank you so much!! He is missed!

  8. It’s sunny in Juneau this Sunday morning and then I read this. What splendid gifts to enjoy rather than wasting time muttering incantations as I might have done only three years ago. 


  9. I thought that was a great article.  It was very sad of course, but I was struck by the way it managed to be funny and interesting at the same time.  It was very brave of Carol to write that at a time when she is clearly still grieving.
    I, too, miss Christopher and his work very much and it’s nice to know that there is a lot of unpublished material by him which we might get to see in due course. As I have said before in other posts, I hope the RDFRS considers setting up it’s own setting up its own “Christopher Hitchens memorial website”, so that the vast amount of Hitchens material could be preserved and collected in one place?  I think it could be a wonderful resource as well as a fitting tribute to him.

  10. I know nothing of Christopher’s life away from the podium, but his ability to debate, both eloquently and brutally (when needed) made me fall in love with the man. Fall in love? With me being a straight male AND an atheist? Is this even possible? Yes, it is. 🙂 

  11. I’ve always wondered what people like Christopher Hitchens would be like in their day-to-day life because they are often so much larger than life – and Carol paints a beautiful and honest picture. A great testament to a great man.

  12. It is heartening to finally be in the company of such fine individuals as Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins through their writings. Only a year into being aware of their work, I have found great comfort in their outlook, their logic, their reason. Living a creative life becomes all the more meaningful when pursued with them at my side. Carol Blue’s essay was a pleasure to read. Thank you for your pioneering work on the Internet. You are changing the world through your work. Christopher, RIP.

  13. Christopher became a writing and broadcasting Titan .
    His appearances on a whole variety of American TV chat shows plus his writings for Vanity Fair etc.have evoked great admiration,and in combination with Richard I believe that some clear thinking Americans have dumped their fairy faith.
    A very gifted public intellectual.

  14. nazila, this sounds very much like worshipping. I am quite sure that he, and Richard Dawkins, dont like to be worshipped. With or without a crown of thorns.
    Still …. he, Christopher, was a remarkeable man, so it seems. Too badI only learned about him last year.

  15. Not superflous at all.  Perhaps one of the best ever written. Certainly the most honest.

  16. Hi Carol. What wonderful memories you share with us.  I savor such events.  Thank you.

  17. Dear Carol,

    Thank you very much for this.  A very moving account of Hitchens’s last days.  It must have taken a lot of bravery to write this.

    I am currently reading Hitch-22 (and pretty much everything I can find written by Christopher) and thoroughly recommend his writing.  I am only sorry I didn’t discover him sooner.

    As long as I live, I will sorely miss him.

  18. Thank You, Carol. Christopher Hitchens is one of my main inspirations since I first heard of him a few years ago. 

  19. Dear Carol, thanks for the story. Christopher completely chanced my life as I’m sure he did yours. Thanks again


  20. Carol,
    Thank you for your remembrances of Christopher. I was moved to tears at his passing and don’t know precisely why, as we had never met. You’re right of course, he is a tough act to follow, and the whole of humanity is poorer having lost him. 

  21.  My wife and I were lucky enough to meet Carol and Hitch last year in Houston at the Texas Freethought convention. He was gave a wide smile when I thanked him for lifting the burden of picking a middle name for our yet to be born son. He lovingly patted her protruding belly (she was 8 months at the time) and told us to hang around as he wanted us to meet Carol. Even though he was gravely ill, we swapped stories about his time in Dallas where he had attendended a debate at Prestonwood Baptist church. When Carol arrived he introduced my wife as “Momma Hitch” and we enjoyed a few more moments. Carol was super engaging and a real delight, both of them were, it is a moment I cannot wait to tell my son about.

    Carol thanks for your time that day and for giving us insite to this time in your life.
    Oh and little Hitch is very curious and gets into everything, reminds me of your husband!

  22. What can I say! To listen to him talk is a pure pleasure, a fearless wit of the highest degree!

  23. A lovely piece of writing, Carol.  I can not imagine how long this must have taken you.

  24. Dear Carol,

    Hitch is, and will continue to be, sorely missed by so many of us. The movement towards freethought, however,
    must be, and thankfully is, greater than any one of its contributors. And Christopher was undoubtedly one of its
    major contributors. I, along with others here, urge you to write that Hitch biography. Im sure you could enlist
    the aid of Martin Amis and various others in the project. Once completed, it might enable many of us, including
    yourself, to complete the grieving process, and move on with a more positive zeal.

    Knowing Hitch like I imagine I do,  he would’ve insisted it be that way.

    For now, please keep two very important thoughts about happiness in mind:

    1) Happiness is all about looking forward to looking forward.

    2) Happiness is knowing with virtual certainty that there’s really no such thing as a “last word”.

    Warmest regards,

    The Kid

  25. Much love to Carol, you lost more than any of us will ever know… but please know, in our own small way, we love him too, as we know you do!  I just wish I could have met and told him how he helped to change my life.  Take care Carol, he led an amazing life, and touched many.  Warmest regards, Justin McKenzie, South Australia

  26. Dear Carol,
    I hope you will forgive the first name familiarity.  Somehow it seems right-your husband was Christopher to us all anti-theists, and so you are Carol.  Thank you very much for a courageous and wonderful article about  him – it is obvious that he was not only a Titan in a public discourse but also a Titan as a private man.  He is sorely, sorely missed and will be remembered for as long as humans are guided by Reason,  the promotion of which he contributed to more than any living person. 

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