Like Caesar, sounds like they came to bury Hitchens, not praise him

Christopher Hitchens speaking at The Amazing M...

Christopher Hitchens speaking at The Amazing Meeting 5, Las Vegas (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The PEN World Voices Festival hosted a sold-out panel that was advertised as paying tribute to Christopher Hitchens, but according to reports, the panelists, which included his colleagues at the Nation, Victor Navasky and Katha Pollitt as well as Graydon Carter from Vanity Fair and George Packer who writes for the New Yorker, preferred to take potshots. His friend Salman Rushdie was moved to defend the late writer.

From the New York Times Artsblog:

May 1, 2012, 12:40 pm

PEN Festival Panel Gives Christopher Hitchens Mixed Grades

By JOHN WILLIAMS

The PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature kicked off Monday night with a panel discussion about the life and work of Christopher Hitchens. Billed as a “tribute” to the writer, the promotional materials for the event said it would engage with this question, among others: “Did the man and his methods overshadow his ideas?” But even that wasn’t full preparation for a decidedly mixed evaluation of Mr. Hitchens’s legacy, which prompted a firm defense of the writer by a famous friend to cap the evening.

Mr. Hitchens’s erudition, wit and prolificacy were taken for granted by the five participants: Katha Pollitt and Victor Navasky, his erstwhile colleagues at The Nation magazine; Graydon Carter, the editor of Vanity Fair; and George Packer, a staff writer for The New Yorker. The question initially posed by the writer Ian Buruma, the event’s moderator, was whether Mr. Hitchens’s work and ideas would stand the test of time.

Mr. Navasky said Mr. Hitchens didn’t have “original theories,” but rather offered “original takes” on things. Ms. Pollitt said that no magazine writer who “weighs in” so regularly on the issues of the day can expect their work to age well. She went further — since, she claimed, it was probably “the reason” she was invited to be on the panel — and called Mr. Hitchens a “tremendous misogynist” who didn’t have “a lot of serious, professional respect for women writers.” She also chided his habit of greeting her with a kiss on the hand, a habit she called “grotesque.”

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