On June 8th, 2010, I was “in conversation” with Christopher Hitchens at the 92nd Street Y in New York in front of his customary sellout audience, to launch his memoir, Hitch-22. Christopher turned in a bravura performance that night, never sharper, never funnier, and afterwards at a small, celebratory dinner the brilliance continued. A few days later he told me that it was on the morning of the Y event that he had been given the news about his cancer. It was hard to believe that he had been so publicly magnificent on such a privately dreadful day. He had shown more than stoicism. He had flung laughter and intelligence into the face of death.
Hitch-22 was a title born of the silly word games we played, one of which was “Titles that don’t quite make it,” among which were A Farewell to Weapons, For Whom the Bell Rings, To Kill a Hummingbird, The Catcher in the Wheat, Mr Zhivago and Toby-Dick, aka Moby-Cock. And, as the not-quite version of Joseph Heller’s comic masterpiece, Hitch-22. Christopher rescued this last title from the slush pile of our catechism of failures and redeemed it by giving it to the text which now stands as his best memorial....
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