Anna Wintour on Hitchens’ love for the “ruined table.”

A wartime lexicon.
Dec. 16 2011 3:57 PM

The Ruined Table

Hitchens’ ideal: cigarette butts, toppled wineglasses, dirty plates, and a cacophony of argument.

Christopher Hitchens
Christopher Hitchens passed away Thursday, Dec. 15 at age 62

See Slate’s full tribute to the life of Christopher Hitchens.  Read Slate’s complete collection of  Christopher Hitchens' columns.

This past July, I gave a book party for my friend Gully Wells. Christopher Hitchens—or Hitch, as he was known to me and just about everyone else—came, as did Martin Amis and James Fenton, who were among his closest friends. It ended up being a reunion of sorts. We’d all known each other for a long time; a million years ago, in London, I’d dated Hitch, and Gully had dated Martin. That evening after it grew dark, most people left, until it was just a small core group of us remaining, and drinks drifted onto my dinner table.

As the night wore on, the scene wasn’t so very different from that of our 20s, eating and drinking and smoking in the San Frediano restaurant, finally reaching that moment that was Hitch’s ideal: the “ruined table.” This meant one littered with the detritus of dirty plates and cigarette butts and stained wineglasses, but also one where the cacophony of chatting, laughing, and venting hung directly overhead, competing for airspace with a heavy, dense cloud of smoke and alcohol fumes.

There was nothing that Hitch liked to do more than talk—and all the better if talking meant arguing. Hitch didn’t care if he agreed with you or not; In fact, he’d be contrary just for the hell of it. Yet no matter how combative he got, it did nothing to diminish our—my—love and affection for him. And that night in July, he seemed exactly as we all remembered him. I saw Hitch again at Thanksgiving, when I went to visit him in the hospital. He was sitting upright heroically typing away on his computer, working on his next book, surrounded by the New York Times and all other types of paraphernalia, hell-bent on creating his own last ruined table.  As Sir Winston Churchill said: “Let us command the moment to remain.”

See Slate’s full tribute to the life of Christopher Hitchens.  Read Slate’s complete collection of  Christopher Hitchens' columns.

Anna Wintour is the editor of Vogue.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Don’t Worry, Obama Isn’t Sending U.S. Troops to Fight ISIS

But the next president might. 

The Extraordinary Amicus Brief That Attempts to Explain the Wu-Tang Clan to the Supreme Court Justices

Amazon Is Officially a Gadget Company. Here Are Its Six New Devices.

The Human Need to Find Connections in Everything

It’s the source of creativity and delusions. It can harm us more than it helps us.

How Much Should You Loathe NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell?

Here are the facts.

Altered State

The Plight of the Pre-Legalization Marijuana Offender

What should happen to weed users and dealers busted before the stuff was legal?

Surprise! The Women Hired to Fix the NFL Think the NFL Is Just Great.

You Shouldn’t Spank Anyone but Your Consensual Sex Partner

Moneybox
Sept. 17 2014 5:10 PM The Most Awkward Scenario in Which a Man Can Hold a Door for a Woman
  News & Politics
Altered State
Sept. 17 2014 11:51 PM The Plight of the Pre-Legalization Marijuana Offender What should happen to weed users and dealers busted before the stuff was legal?
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 17 2014 1:36 PM Nate Silver Versus Princeton Professor: Who Has the Right Models?
  Life
Dear Prudence
Sept. 18 2014 6:00 AM All Shook Up My 11-year-old has been exploring herself with my “back massager.” Should I stop her?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 17 2014 6:14 PM Today in Gender Gaps: Biking
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 17 2014 9:37 AM Is Slate Too Liberal?  A members-only open thread.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 17 2014 8:25 PM A New Song and Music Video From Angel Olsen, Indie’s Next Big Thing
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 17 2014 9:00 PM Amazon Is Now a Gadget Company
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 18 2014 7:30 AM Red and Green Ghosts Haunt the Stormy Night
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 17 2014 3:51 PM NFL Jerk Watch: Roger Goodell How much should you loathe the pro football commissioner?