Hitchens alters the mix

Christopher Hitchens has always been a puzzle and delight to me. He brings equal passion to being appalled by Bill Clinton and Mother Teresa, an odd coupling, and is always eloquent and funny, even when dead wrong. A legendary drinker and smoker, he has always struck me as a man whose use of nicotine and alcohol, the traditional lubricants (and devils) of literary genius, was integral to the productive, free-wheeling state of mind he must maintain. Alcohol lowers assorted kinds of barriers, while nicotine sharpens certain faculties.

Both substances can be addictive and harmful, but some believe them almost necessary to the occupation. Which is not to say that observant Mormons can't be literary geniuses. Not everyone needs to drink and smoke to be a great wit. However there is a category of human beings who are funnier, more free-wheeling and in some ways faster, with a drink and a smoke, or (depending on the setting) chaw, dip, or a little snuff up the nose. These days there is even the Patch.

So it is with a certain shock that I learn from Edward Luce of the Financial Times that Hitch has given up smoking. In the course of a description of a long lunch at a restaurant specififcally chosen because outdoor tables allow smoking, Luce learns Hitch has stopped, quoting him:

"I've tried many different methods over the last few months -- everything, absolutely everything; therapy sessions, various classes and groups -- none of them worked at all," Hitchens continues, oblivious to what he has unleashed. "Then I woke up yesterday and said: ‘Enough.' By the way, don't let me stop you from smoking," he adds airily. "Doesn't bother me. I feel no temptation at all." And so the meal begins with a unilateral cigarette.
Of course, I do want the best for Mr. Hitchens, and hope to enjoy his wit for as long as possible. I should hope Hitch would do what is best for his health. And a big part of me is very happy that he has made this important choice and seems set on succeeding.

But I can't help wondering if altering his blood chemistry will affect Hitch's thinking and productivity. After all, there is a delicate balance between the stimulative and depressive elements of the two drugs. Will Hitch lose his edge? A friend of mine is currently about a month into kicking the habit, and she is as sharp as ever (which is saying a lot), though not much of a drinker.

Judging by the many comments Hitch made in his conversation (Luce wondered how he could eat at all, given how much talking he did), so far, so good for him, too. Hitch covers a lot of ground, from what triggered his exit from the left to the Clintons and his ethnic identity as a new American. This is a great read.

Hat tip: Real Clear Politics
Christopher Hitchens has always been a puzzle and delight to me. He brings equal passion to being appalled by Bill Clinton and Mother Teresa, an odd coupling, and is always eloquent and funny, even when dead wrong. A legendary drinker and smoker, he has always struck me as a man whose use of nicotine and alcohol, the traditional lubricants (and devils) of literary genius, was integral to the productive, free-wheeling state of mind he must maintain. Alcohol lowers assorted kinds of barriers, while nicotine sharpens certain faculties.

Both substances can be addictive and harmful, but some believe them almost necessary to the occupation. Which is not to say that observant Mormons can't be literary geniuses. Not everyone needs to drink and smoke to be a great wit. However there is a category of human beings who are funnier, more free-wheeling and in some ways faster, with a drink and a smoke, or (depending on the setting) chaw, dip, or a little snuff up the nose. These days there is even the Patch.

So it is with a certain shock that I learn from Edward Luce of the Financial Times that Hitch has given up smoking. In the course of a description of a long lunch at a restaurant specififcally chosen because outdoor tables allow smoking, Luce learns Hitch has stopped, quoting him:

"I've tried many different methods over the last few months -- everything, absolutely everything; therapy sessions, various classes and groups -- none of them worked at all," Hitchens continues, oblivious to what he has unleashed. "Then I woke up yesterday and said: ‘Enough.' By the way, don't let me stop you from smoking," he adds airily. "Doesn't bother me. I feel no temptation at all." And so the meal begins with a unilateral cigarette.
Of course, I do want the best for Mr. Hitchens, and hope to enjoy his wit for as long as possible. I should hope Hitch would do what is best for his health. And a big part of me is very happy that he has made this important choice and seems set on succeeding.

But I can't help wondering if altering his blood chemistry will affect Hitch's thinking and productivity. After all, there is a delicate balance between the stimulative and depressive elements of the two drugs. Will Hitch lose his edge? A friend of mine is currently about a month into kicking the habit, and she is as sharp as ever (which is saying a lot), though not much of a drinker.

Judging by the many comments Hitch made in his conversation (Luce wondered how he could eat at all, given how much talking he did), so far, so good for him, too. Hitch covers a lot of ground, from what triggered his exit from the left to the Clintons and his ethnic identity as a new American. This is a great read.

Hat tip: Real Clear Politics