Christopher Hitchens: A Great Journalist's Greatest Magazine Stories

Longform.org's guide to the greatest long articles ever written.
Dec. 16 2011 12:39 AM

The Longform.org Guide to Christopher Hitchens

A great journalist’s greatest magazine stories.

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Christopher Hitchens • Vanity Fair • November 1994

An early foreign report on the state of the African continent:

"Whoever he was, and whatever happened to him, he will certainly never read this. He was clad in nothing but an oufit of ragged trousers, and he was being pulled across the road by a half-dozen other men. If it hadn't been nighttime I might barely have noticed, but there isn't much street light in Kinshasa after dark, and your headlights make a tableau of anything that's visible. There was a shantytown hunched in blackness on one side of the pitted street, and another shantytown slumped on the other side, and the gang needed or wanted to drag the guy from the first to the seoond. He looked as if he badly didn't desire to cooperate. My driver floored it as soon as he took in the scene, and as the pickup shot past I could register the external details: mouth open in a wordless yell, eyes rolling in the face, muscles and tendons bent in resistance—a man headed for some unnameable appointment.

In the capital city of Mr. Mobutu's Zaire, whom was I going to call? The police? Even if the rugged-looking crew didn't turn out to be the police, the telephones have been out these many years. And no Zairean, such as the pickup driver from whom I'd hitched the ride, would think of intervening in such a macabre but routine sideshow.”

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Christopher Hitchens • Slate • June 2010

An excerpt from his memoir Hitch-22, about his dreadful years at boarding school:

“There was nowhere to hide. The lavatory doors sometimes had no bolts. One was always subject to invigilation, waking and sleeping. Collective punishment was something I learned about swiftly: ‘Until the offender confesses in public,’ a giant voice would intone, ‘all your 'privileges' will be withdrawn.’ There were curfews, where we were kept at our desks or in our dormitories under a cloud of threats while officialdom prowled the corridors in search of unspecified crimes and criminals. Again I stress the matter of sheer scale: the teachers were enormous compared to us and this lent a Brobdingnagian aspect to the scene. In seeming contrast, but in fact as reinforcement, there would be long and ‘jolly’ periods where masters and boys would join in scenes of compulsory enthusiasm—​usually over the achievements of a sports team—​and would celebrate great moments of victory over lesser and smaller schools. I remember years later reading about Stalin that the intimates of his inner circle were always at their most nervous when he was in a ‘good’ mood, and understanding instantly what was meant by that.”

He Knew He Was Right

Ian Parker • The New Yorker • October 2006

The definitive profile of Hitchens:

"Hitchens has the life that a spirited thirteen-year-old boy might hope adulthood to be: he wakes up when he likes, works from home, is married to someone who wears leopard-skin high heels, and conducts heady, serious discussions late into the night. I arrived just after midday, and Hitchens said that it was ’time for a cocktail’; he poured a large drink. His hair flopped over his forehead, and he pushed it back using just the tips of his fingers, his hand as unbending as a mannequin’s.

He noted that he never likes going to bed. ‘I’m not that keen on the idea of being unconscious,’ he said. ‘There’s plenty of time to be unconscious coming up.’ In Washington, his socializing usually takes place at home. ‘I can have some sort of control over who comes, what gets talked about, what gets eaten, what gets drunk, and the ashtrays,’ he said. ‘Call me set in my ways’ (Hitchens’s predominant tone is quietly self-parodying. Even his farewells are ironic: ‘It’s been real,’ ‘Stay cool.’) Guests at the Hitchens salon include people he first knew in London, who call him ‘Hitch,’ including Salman Rushdie, Ian McEwan, and his great friend Martin Amis (‘The only blond I have ever really loved,’ Hitchens once said); long-standing American friends like Christopher Buckley and Graydon Carter; an international network of dissidents and intellectuals; and, these days, such figures as David Frum, the former Bush Administration speechwriter, and Grover Norquist, the conservative activist. In September, he hosted Barham Salih, a Kurd who is a Deputy Prime Minister of the new Iraqi government. Many guests can report seeing Hitchens step out of the room after dinner, write a column, then step back almost before the topic of conversation has changed.”

Have a favorite piece that we missed? Leave the link in the comments or tweet it to @longformorg.

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

Max Linsky is a founding editor of Longform.org.

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