“Allons Travailler!” was Christopher’s response to the “what is your motto?” part of the Proust Questionnaire, a survey the editors of Vanity Fair, gave to various personalities each month. Here are Christopher’s responses.
Reprinted from Hitch 22
I realize this is a bit off topic, but since David Bowie died this week, I thought readers of this blog might appreciate his answers to the same questionnaire.You can view them here.
Hitchens and Rushdie shared a sense of humor, as Rushdie explains in this NYT interview. In Hitch-22, Christopher told about a game they played, [Book] Titles That Don’t Quite Make It, which is how the Hitch-22 title originated. Rushdie explains in this 2012 piece for Vanity Fair:
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, a.k.a. 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.
You probably know these images, or others by this photographer (and you may even have appropriated them for a posting or used them for a meme). You can’t google Christopher Hitchens without seeing his work. He is Christian Witkin, a Brooklyn based photographer, who has photographed Hitchens as many as six times, frequently for Vanity Fair Magazine. He has an extensive portfolio with some of the most well known personalities in the world.
All photos in this posting by Christian Witkin, and used with his permission.
I spent an afternoon in his studio where he told me some of the stories behind the shoots. The most interesting was the day he spent documenting Hitch defying the quality of life laws put in place by then NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg (whom Hitch, never short for clever descriptions, called a ‘micro-megalomaniac’). The story appeared in the February 2004 edition of Vanity Fair (see VF photo tribute to Hitchens).
That session produced the now well-known bicycle photo, where Hitch is on the bike in Central Park, without…I can hardly say it… his feet on the petals! That same day the two went downtown to dine at Lucien, in the East Village. Hitch sat at the bar, smoking a cigarette, again, in violation of the Mayor’s laws. He wrote about it in “Love, Poverty and War“.
In the past year, I’ve dined at Lucien’s on several occasions, including last night where my friend and I had the Pigeonneau Roti Hitchens (roasted squab with wild mushroom risotto and foie gras, which Lucien placed on the menu to tribute his friend. One of the first postings on this blog introduced Lucien: Meet Lucien, (not a fractious juvenile).
For more of Christian’s work please visit his site, and check out his Instagram feeds.