This afternoon's All Things Considered profile of writer/provocateur Christopher Hitchens comes from correspondent Guy Raz, his first piece on our air since returning to the fold from the world of (insert your adjective here) corporate media.
Hitchens is a British-born literary critic, a public intellectual, an author, a journalist and a wit. He's also a turncoat, according to many of his former friends on the left, who view his unalloyed support for the war in Iraq with horror.
Guy told me he's been itching to profile Hitchens for years, particularly because he read much of the author's work while reporting from Afghanistan and Iraq. While Guy said he doesn't always share Hitchens' perspective, he finds himself consistently challenged by Hitchens' arguments and the power of his prose.
Hitchens is a colorful figure on political talk shows and the lecture circuit and he's easy to caricature. His appetites include a legendary passion for booze and cigarettes, which he claims helps him think. But you'll hear unexpected sides to Hitchens in this profile -- for example, that he doesn't like to be called a contrarian. In an interview snippet that didn't make it into the piece, but that will be available on the Web site, Hitchens talks about the dissolution of his friendship with the Palestinian-American scholar and activist Edward Said. The two were estranged when Said died in 2003. Guy says the tone of Hitchens' voice expresses his pain over their unresolved differences far more than his words.
Hitchens called Guy yesterday to announce that he probably wouldn't listen to the story -- and he'll probably hate it anyway -- but he hopes they can keep talking. And that, in some way, seems to sum up what's most likable about Christopher Hitchens. He's in constant conversation and debate, and he's not someone who backs down.
I think you'll find this profile intriguing. And wait until the kicker. No matter your politics, you'll find it priceless.