I’ve just finished reading Christopher Hitchens’ Hitch 22, a sad but stimulating experience. Among many sage observations, he tells us how much he values a sense of the absurd and an ironic mind, as well as linguistic playfulness. Despotisms always seem to be literal-minded, pedestrian, humorless, and linguistically repressive—as well as fanatical and violent. Hitchens always stood for reason and jocularity (he is hilarious on the erstwhile American male fashion of wearing pants that are several inches too short, the better to display the spindly male ankle in all its pale and hairy glory). He also believes deeply in friendship—real friendship, not associations-of-convenience. In friendship there must be honesty and the trust that goes with it. We must always be on the lookout for the inwardly frothing maniac with the calm exterior, the cold-eyed fanatic. Ideologues are always with us, in new guises and with new agendas. Whenever someone is willing to do great harm to others in the service of some alleged “cause” be alert for a new brand of fascism. Hitchens represents intelligence and humor, as against the unsmiling stupidity of the totalitarian mind.