Lewis Lapham, the editor of Harper’s, brought Christopher Hitchens to The Moth for the rather gorgeously titled show, “Mentor, Tormentor, Progenitor: An Evening of Stories On Creatures That Shaped Us.” I sat next to Christopher before the show began. He seemed deeply drunk. When at last he took the stage, he began ramblingly. He had chosen, at the last moment, to discard his original tale for another (almost always a fatal blunder). But before he arrived at the new story he wanted to tell us a bit about the one he’d dropped, and to recite some Auden, and to touch on the sexual proclivities of Oxford students, and to lament the slouching profiles cut by America and Britain on the world map. As the minutes slipped by we grew worried that he would never deliver on that story he had promised. Not that it really mattered. We were spellbound. A wandering Hitchens is better than anyone else focused, and if he’d never found his way to that story we’d still have thought ourselves profoundly lucky to be sitting there.
But of course he did deliver (we should have known that Hitchens always delivered).
His tale when he chose to unveil it (he gets rolling about seven minutes in) was gripping and hilarious and moving, and illustrious of his kindness and courage, and his detestation of all religious flummery. As his time ran out and the saxophonist prepared to play, he nailed his landing and returned in triumph to our table, where his drink happily awaited. When Christopher Hitchens was on this earth, it was hard to believe that such a prodigy, such a wealth of erudition and tenderness and wit and surprise and penetration, could exist. Now it’s impossible to believe that he’s gone.
Christopher Hitchens at The Moth by mothstories