The intellectually dazzling Christopher Hitchens, despite esophageal cancer is still alive, has his voice back and accepted an award in person Saturday at the annual convention of the Atheist Alliance of America and Texas Freethought. Richard Dawkins presented the Freethinker of the Year Award to Hitchens in Houston, near the MD Anderson Cancer Center where he's receiving treatment.
Houston Chronicle blogger Geoff Berg reports the event (Christopher Hitchens makes first public appearance in months), including Hitchens' recommended books in response to 8-year-old Mason Crumpacker asking what she should read. And,
An unapologetic supporter of the Iraq war, Hitchens urged Western foes of violent jihad to make common cause with moderate Muslims to combat Saudi influence, which he condemned as extremist, backward and violent.
He said that he appreciated the fact that Rick Perry is so open about his faith instead of lying about his desire to inject fundamentalism into public life.
In discussing Mitt Romney's faith, Hitchens said that what he liked about about Mormonism is that it presents the rare opportunity to witness the creation of a new religion. The faith's founder, Joseph Smith, Hitchens said, wanted to be remembered not as the Jesus of the new religion, but as its Mohamed, who, Smith believed, presented his followers with a choice: "either the Al-Koran or the sword."
Charles McGrath of the New York Times caught up with him (Christopher Hitchens on Writing, Mortality and Cancer), and saved "but how is he?" and the best for last.
Mr. Hitchens has an extensive support network that includes his wife, Carol Blue, and his great friends James Fenton and Martin Amis. Mr. Amis is known for being cool and acerbic, but as he kissed and embraced Mr. Hitchens last week, visiting on the way to a literary festival in Mexico, his affection for his friend was unmistakable. "Hitch's buoyancy is amazing," he said later. "He has this great love of life, which I rather envy, because I think I may be deficient in that respect. It's an odd thing to say, but he's almost like a Tibetan monk. It's as if he'd become religious."
That focus is perhaps his highest human quality, embodying Hitchenness at every moment.