Friday, December 16, 2011

Uh Oh—Christopher Hitchens Is Dead

Christopher Hitchens is dead. Now who's going to tell women they're not funny?

Hitchens died of complications from esophageal cancer at the age of 62, reported Gawker,  calling him a "Clinton-loathing, religion-mocking, Kurd-loving, war-mongering, ball-waxing British drunk who contained multitudes and seemed to be insulting you somehow even when you agreed with him."

Christopher Hitchens, smoking, as he led his life, down to the nub. (Photo:
And then there were the times you didn't agree with him, or at least thought you didn't agree with him, until you started to read his clever prose and started to get swayed by his sinuous writerly logic, the jerk.

Remember when Hitchens wrote this "provocation" in the pages of Vanity Fair?:

Why are women, who have the whole male world at their mercy, not funny? Please do not pretend not to know what I am talking about. All right—try it the other way (as the bishop said to the barmaid). Why are men, taken on average and as a whole, funnier than women? Well, for one thing, they had damn well better be. The chief task in life that a man has to perform is that of impressing the opposite sex, and Mother Nature (as we laughingly call her) is not so kind to men. In fact, she equips many fellows with very little armament for the struggle. An average man has just one, outside chance: he had better be able to make the lady laugh. Making them laugh has been one of the crucial preoccupations of my life.

In writing this, I just went back to that Vanity Fair article, and I dreaded having to re-read it because I remember how viscerally annoyed I got the first time I read the piece. To my surprise, Hitchens' elegantly argued thesis actually started to convince me...and then I got to thinking, "Wait, is he right? Are women not funny? Maybe he's got a point." How maddening!

Then again, Christopher Hitchens was a genius of the abrupt statement that makes people laugh in spite of themselves. For example, he managed to find a way to criticize Mother Teresa, claiming that she was more interested in glorifying God than in helping the poor.

Daily Hitchens, which bills itself as an unofficial Christopher Hitchens site,  notes that the author's memoir, "Mortality," will be published early next year.


Underemployed said...

Women are very funny, just not around men.

"Funny" he didn't figure that out...

P.S. Per your suggestion: I am far too shy. One of the reasons I choose to write (as opposed to being a rock star) is the art's comfortable choice of anonymity. Of course, my feelings might change if offered enough money.

Anonymous said...

Hitchens has figured more out than you could possibly hope to in a thousand intervals of life. His point was not that women were not funny, but that they had no reason to be. The burden of the comedic seduction is placed on the men in society.

Joyce Hanson said...

Hi, Anonymous:

"Hitchens has figured more out than you could possibly hope to in a thousand intervals of life."

How could you possibly know what I have and haven't figured out? You know nothing about me other than what you see in my blog, and even there it's unlikely that you've read much of it. Plus, your "thousand intervals of life" exaggeration suggests magical thinking at its worst.

As for man's "burden of the comedic seduction," that's got nothing on the wit that women must develop in a world that's hostile or condescending toward them. Dolly Parton is a brilliant example of that.