Bad Cards

I heard about Christopher Hitchensannouncement about having esophogal cancer last night. I gather his condition may have been caused by years of cigarette smoking. I’m very sorry. Here’s hoping for some luck.

  • Travis Crabtree


    I’ve read from some doctor-types that his enjoyment of drink may have been more of a factor in this form of cancer than the smoking.

    Hope he hangs in for a long while.

  • Travis Crabtree


    Here come the requisite comments on how he used to be cool until he fell under the spell of the evil neo-con something-or-other machine.

  • Glenn Kenny

    Yes, as it happens, and this is kind of gross, the condition is particularly common among bulimics and alcoholics, as frequent vomiting is believed to move it along. Of course one can be neither a bulimic or alcoholic and still contract the condition.

    Actually, the real truth of the matter is that Hitchens used to be cool until he started earning the admiration of noobs like Travis. Travis THINKS that’s the same thing as “fall[ing] under the spell of the evil neo-con[s]” or some such, but it’s not. Of course his inability to make the distinction is what makes him who he is.

    But seriously: I’m hoping Hitchens beats this (the odds are not great, but it has been done), not least because I’d like to hear what he has to say from the other side of it.

  • MikeSchaeferSF

    Hitchens is still cool because he’s an unapologetic atheist. It is always entertaining to see him go on FOX News and after agreeing with them for 20 minutes he’ll suddenly say “oh, and by the way, there is no god” and then Hannity’s head explodes.

  • Hip Hop Homey

    Glenn: With all due respect, if somebody believes in…ah, fuck it. What does it matter here??? LOL.

  • jeremylandes

    Luck? Guess that’s the best you can offer, but the man needs prayer. I’m looking forward to reading his brother’s new book about how his faith grew out of exposure to a culture of socialism in Russia/USSR.

  • nemo

    Alcoholism can be a major contributing factor to esophageal cancer, and not just from vomiting. Alcohol consumption can contribute to chronic reflux, where small amounts of acidic stomach contents repeatedly enter the lower end of the esophagus, especially while you are lying down sleeping.

    Reflux can happen for other reasons (middle age and heredity being the biggest risk factors), but alcohol is a big factor if you already have other risks.

    Reflux is common, but fortunately, there are effective treatments for reflux, and it only occasionally leads to cancer. The statistics for beating esophageal cancer are poor.

  • crazynine

    Poor guy. That’s a particularly tough form of cancer, the survival rate is zilch. Here’s hoping he laughs in its face.

    BTW, the best thing I ever read *about* Hitchens was in this Weekly Standard write-up by Matt Labash as the War in Iraq was starting (and he and Hitchens were crossing the border into Iraq):

    IT IS ESSENTIAL, during times of war, to be in good company. And to that end, fellowship prospects improved markedly last week around the Kuwait City Hilton–known to hotel warriors as central command. After 36 sleepless hours, I had just stolen three or four when my phone rang. “Hello Matt,” said the voice on the other end. “It’s Christopher Hitchens. I’m here. Did I wake you?” Yes you did, I told him, though I wasn’t about to turn down a social call from one of our finest magazine scribblers and seekers of truth. “Good,” he said. “I’ll give you five minutes to put your teeth in, then I’ll be right over.”

    You can tell how at ease a man is in the world from the scarcity of possessions he lugs around with him. When I came here, it was with large backpacks and overstuffed duffels, extraneous tote bags, pouches, and carry-ons. But Hitchens showed up at my door with nothing more than a firm handshake and a half-smoked pack of Rothman’s. As he stood there, rumpled and slightly jetlagged in blue jeans and a black leather jacket, he looked sort of like the Fonz–if the Fonz had been a British former socialist who could pinch large swaths of Auden from memory.

    We plopped down in the living room, and I asked him why he hadn’t brought his gas mask, chem suit, and Kevlar. “I wore Kevlar in the Balkans once,” he said, “but it made me feel like a counterfeit, so I ditched it.” Despite this cavalier disregard for safety, I was so grateful for the company that I offered him a Welcome-To-Kuwait shot of “Listerine” (as it is known by Kuwaiti customs officials). “I don’t usually start this early,” said Hitchens with feigned reluctance, “but holding yourself to a drinking schedule is always the first sign of alcoholism.”

  • Monument

    I’m pretty sure all all atheists are unapologetic, they are generally brimming with confidence in their own opinion. I don’t mind atheists, but a dose of humility would do most of them a lot of good, same goes for theists.

    That being said, I like Hitchens and have always enjoyed his wit. I’ll take a Hitchens atheist over the Dawkins variety any day.

  • Travis Crabtree

    MikeSchaeferSF…. yes! Love that.

    One of my favorite things about him has always been his crusty refusal to join a particular “team”.

    As I’ve stated before, my admiration comes from his consistency regarding religion. Many (on the Left) love it when he dogs Christianity, but then their knee-jerk empathy for all things underdog/third world makes them squirm uncomfortably when he applies the same critical eye towards Islam, (or Hinduism, Sikhism, etc)

    I don’t agree with much of what Christopher believes in, but damned if he’s not well-thought out. I admire his tenacity.

    His brother’s a sharp cookie, too. That must be a fantastically interesting family reunion discussion when the Hitchens get together.

    And thanks for pretending to know what I think, Glenn. Dipshit.

  • Gordn27

    Yeah, Glenn, thanks for remembering things that he has said and forming a general opinion about him based on them!

  • Chicago48

    Travis, I just lost a brother (57 yo) to lung cancer who was a heavy smoker and drinker. Drinking can contribute to lung cancer. That he lived as long as he did is a miracle because he started doing those things when he was a teenager. Smoking is one of the worst habits and I still don’t get why people still do it, after all the warnings. It’s like playing russian roulette….it’s going to get you sooner or later.

  • Manitoba

    Best wishes to the unique, colorful and unpredictable Mr. Hitchens. For anyone in the mood, I would recommend the excerpt from “Hitch 22: A Memoir” in the June Vanity Fair magazine. It is slugged “Martin, Maggie, and Me.” Topics covered include 1970s London, some disastrous “research”with Martin Amis at a New York bordello and encounters with everyone from Thomas Pynchon to Margaret Thatcher.

  • Travis Crabtree

    Sorry about your loss, Chicago48.

  • rayciscon

    Former Socialist, anti-jihadist, athiest, author, raconteur, smoker, drinker, and conversationalist supreme…. Hitchens was almost certain to lay out an argument on some subject that you would disagree with, but he did so with such aplomb and wit that you still had to admire him.

    I for one will be praying for his recovery, despite his own lack of faith.

  • Hip Hop Homey

    @Monument: Trust me when I say that there are atheists who are humble or unassuming. I am one. But, mostly, I am reluctant. Trust me, I would LOVE to have the kind faith that seems to give few the peace of mind in this life. But, from everything I have read or experienced, I just don’t have it in me. I grappled with this question, struggled with for years and years until I finally gave up. It was a hard thing to do because I wanted that kind of faith, the kind of certainty like my grandmother has. But I just don’t have it in me.

    Honestly, I wonde about hte supposed atheists who want to brag about hteir nonbelief. Did they go through what I did when I was younger? Did they strugle with their worldview? I don’t know and it doesn’t matter. Each man has to make his own way. Luckily, I have a family and security and a pretty nice lifestyle and it makes me happy to see my loved ones. Hokey, but it’s the point of life and gives me comfort, even if we’re all circling the abyss.

  • Decca Aitkenhead flat out called him an alky in her disapproving piece a few weeks back. I doubt she’ll regret the snark; but hopefully she’ll re-read the memoir and see him a little differently now. She might even re-read her article and find:

    “Well, I’ve done better than I thought I would. I’ve made more money than I ever thought I would. I’ve got more readers than I ever thought I would, and more esteem.”

    He’s just a writer at heart. Hope that heart is still beating for many years to come.

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