And Lunch Turned Into Dinner …
Being Hitchens’ friend meant talking, talking, talking.
Because Christopher Hitchens was so politically confrontational and devastating to his opponents, the public is largely unaware of his intense personal generosity and kindness. Time and again, he went far beyond the normal duties of friendship. As our mutual friend Michael Weiss aptly puts it, "Friendship was his ideology."
I instantly bonded with Hitch in 1998 when I tagged along to an interview he did with a friend of mine over lunch. The friend left after an hour, but we stayed at the restaurant talking about politics, literature, and history. Lunch turned into dinner, and finally his wife, Carol, summoned him home on the grounds that 10 hours straight of talking to anyone was more than enough for one sitting. This set the stage for an abiding friendship based on such marathon conversations.
His loyalty never ceased to amaze me. In March 2002, David Horowitz published an article outrageously suggesting that I had secretly celebrated the 9/11 attacks before publicly condemning them on television. Christopher immediately sent him a blistering email insisting that this allegation was not only untrue but "something that could not be true." (Emphasis in the original.) Indeed, he put his relationship with Horowitz on the line, writing, "I'm willing to be a mutual friend if you will accept my pledged word that you have (and I wish I could say inadvertently) grossly wronged a decent man." Horowitz immediately issued a full retraction and apology.
On a more recent occasion, when he was at the start of his last book tour, just before falling ill, I had a personal crisis. He was in Chicago when I phoned him. His instant response was "Right, I'm canceling tomorrow's events, and coming back to D.C. for a day. We will sit together and talk this through man to man." And he did.
So as the world eulogizes a great mind and fierce spirit, I'm left with profoundly moving personal memories of one of the kindest, sweetest, and most loyal of men.
Hussein Ibish writes about Middle East affairs for numerous American and Middle Eastern publications, is a columnist for Now Lebanon, and blogs at www.ibishblog.com.