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Turborama Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Aug-06-10 02:07 PM
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1. I found that to be a powerful interview
Edited on Fri Aug-06-10 02:08 PM by Turborama
Here's the transcript in case both the vids get pulled ;-) :hi:

COOPER: Christopher Hitchens is known for his intelligence and his combative wit. He spent a career as a social critic and a writer not afraid to take on anyone or anything. Hitchens has a devoted following as well as a long list of his own critics. He is an atheist without apology.

But two months ago he discovered he has esophageal cancer, and many were wondering if that diagnosis may have changed his belief in God or in prayer. He was diagnosed just recently, as I said. But he has a new book out, "Hitch 22," and frankly, the diagnosis just came as it hit the best seller list. It is a memoir. It is a fascinating read. I had a chance to talk with him earlier today.


COOPER: When did you realize something was wrong?

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS, CRITIC/WRITER: It was in the middle of my tour for my memoir, my "Hitch 22" and I was feeling a bit ropey, but I wrote it down to overwork. And I rather enjoyed the feeling of burning the candle at both ends and living a 36-hour day. But it abruptly was brought in on me that that was an illusion. There was a morning I couldn't get out of bed. There was -- something was obviously wrong with my heart and my lungs. This was in New York.

COOPER: You felt it as soon as you woke up?

HITCHENS: Oh, yes. I couldn't move, really. This is not -- there's an expression about I woke up feeling like death. I've had that. This was not like that.

COOPER: You've had some rough mornings?

HITCHENS: This was like that. And I thought, "Maybe I'm dying."

COOPER: And when you found out what kind of cancer it was, it's the same sort of cancer your father had?

HITCHENS: One of the first things that I thought was, that's what killed the old man.

COOPER: My dad died of a heart attack when he was 50, and I really don't want to die of a heart attack.


COOPER: Like, for some odd reason the idea of dying -- it's not even the age thing but having that, for some reason -- so did that cross your mind?

HITCHENS: You don't feel any familial piety about the disease that killed your father. And then the second thought was self centered. I thought he lived to be 79. I'm 61.

COOPER: So that question, "why me," came across your mind?

HITCHENS: Well, you can't avoid the question, however stoic you are. You can only bat it away as a silly one. I mean, millions of people die every day. Everyone has got to go some time.

I came by this particular tumor honestly. If you smoke, which I did for many years, very heavily, with occasional interruptions, and if you -- if you use alcohol, you make yourself a candidate for it in your 60s.

COOPER: And you said to me you burned the candle at both ends. You think...

HITCHENS: And it gave a lovely light.

COOPER: It gave a lovely light. But you think part of the way you lived is responsible for this?

HITCHENS: Well, it would be very idle to deny it. And I might as well say to anyone who might be watching, if you can hold it down on the smokes and the cocktails, you might be well advised to do so.

COOPER: That's probably the subtlest anti-smoking message I've ever heard.

HITCHENS: Well, the other ones tend to be rather strident.

COOPER: That's true.

HITCHENS: And, for that reason, easy to ignore.

COOPER: Yes. So, you are hopeful?

HITCHENS: Well, I'm not fatalistic. I'm not resigned. But I'm realistic, too. The statistics in my case are very poor. Not many people come through esophageal cancer and live to talk about it, or not for long.

COOPER: I know you know that there are people praying for you. There are prayer groups, actually. And you talked about that a little bit. What do you think about that, the fact that people are praying for you?

HITCHENS: There are people who are praying for me to suffer and die. They have lavish Web sites relishing my...

COOPER: Really?

HITCHENS: Oh, yes. And then there are people, much more numerous, I must say, and nicer, who are praying either that I get better or that I redeem myself, that I make peace with the Almighty, that my soul gets saved, even if my wretched carcass does not. And some pray for both.

And, in fact, the 20th of September has been designated Everyone Pray for Hitchens Day on one Web site in case you want to mark the calendar for that. I shall not be taking part in that.

COOPER: So you don't pray at all?

HITCHENS: No, no. That's all -- I don't think that souls or bodies can be changed by incantation or anything else, by the way.

COOPER: So do you tell people not to do it?

HITCHENS: No. I say if it makes you feel better, then you have my blessing.

COOPER: It's interesting hearing you talk about it. It's -- I mean, obviously, you are an intellectual, and you seem to be dealing with it in an intellectual way. Does that -- does that make sense? You seem to be look at this, trying to look at this as rationally as possible. What about the emotional side?

HITCHENS: Well, let's say as objectively as possible.

COOPER: Objectively?

HITCHENS: Yes. And to my slight surprise -- because I'm not by any means tear proof, I haven't wept at any point yet. Maybe that's to come. But I've become moist when I think about my children, for whom it's a nasty shock.

COOPER: Part of the book that really resonated with me is you write -- it's in the first chapter. You write about your mom, who committed suicide. I had a brother who committed suicide, as well.

And it certainly -- it's something that, unless you've sort of had it touchdown in your life, it's -- one doesn't really sort of realize the impact it can have. What -- what kind of an impact did it have on -- on you?

HITCHENS: My mother took her own life in a suicide pact with a lover after the failure of her marriage to my father while she was still quite young. And I was terribly upset at the thought that someone as vivacious as her would or could ever get to a point where she would think there was no point in any further life.

And that was succeeded by the feeling that I, who was very close to her, should have been able to give her some such reason. And I think I describe -- I know I do in the book, the awful discovery I made in the hotel in Athens where she took her life. Of course, this was the old days of switchboards. I went through all the records. She made several efforts to call my number in London, and I had never been at home.

And I've -- I've never been able to lose the feeling that she was probably calling in the hope to find a hand to hold of some sort to cling to and that, if she'd heard my voice, because I could always make her laugh -- I invariably could make her laugh, however blue she was -- then I could have saved her. So as a result, I've never had what we'll call closure.

COOPER: I think that word "closure," though, is such a ridiculous word. I mean...

HITCHENS: Glad to hear you say that.

COOPER: Every time I hear it, I feel it's -- people who speak it who have not lost anyone and don't understand that there is no such thing as...

HITCHENS: There is no such thing, A. And B, it wouldn't be worth having if it were available, because all it would mean is that some quite important part of you had gone numb. Oh, how nice. I don't feel anything about her anymore. No.

COOPER: In terms of what lies ahead, I mean, how is -- actually, I want to read something else that you wrote in -- and we sort of talked about a little bit. But I just thought it was really a great sentence.

You said, "I had been in denial for some time, not only burning the candle at both ends and finding that it often gives a lovely light, but for precisely that reason, I can't see myself smiting my brow with shock or hearing myself whining about how it's all so unfair. I've been taunting the reaper into taking a free scythe in my direction. I've now succumbed to something so predictable and banal that it bores even me. Rage would be beside the point for the same reason."

Do you find this boring in a way?

HITCHENS: Yes, if that -- that's what will kill me.

COOPER: The mundane?

HITCHENS: Yes, having to sit through chemotherapy, for example, is almost a Zen experience of boredom. You can't do much except read. And you're watching poison going into your arm.

People saying you should be struggling, battling cancer. You're not battling. You couldn't be living a more passive moment than that. You feel as if you're drowning in powerlessness.

COOPER: In a moment of doubt, isn't there -- I don't know. I find it -- I just find it fascinating that, even when you're alone and, you know, no one else is watching, that there might be a moment where you, you know, want to hedge your bets.

HITCHENS: If that comes, it will be when I'm very ill, when I'm half demented, either by drugs or pain where, I wouldn't have control over what I say.

I mention this in case you ever hear a rumor later on. Because these things happen, and the faithful love to spread these rumors. On his death bed he finally -- I can't say that the entity that by then wouldn't be me wouldn't do such a pathetic thing, but I can tell you that not while I'm lucid, no. I could be quite sure of that.

COOPER: So if there is some story that on your death bed...

HITCHENS: Don't believe it.

COOPER: Don't believe it?

HITCHENS: Don't credit it, no.


COOPER: Christopher Hitchens. You can see more of my interview with him on our Web site at (
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