Did Christopher Hitchens Drink Coffee? (#12)

The other day I googled, “Christopher Hitchens coffee,” trying to ascertain whether or not Christopher Hitchens drank coffee, and was dismayed to find that the results were paltry. Which is why I’m going to make the results. Yes, friends, today’s post attempts to answer the question: Did Christopher Hitchens drink coffee?

First of all, it’s common knowledge that Hitchens drank tea. He even has an article about it. Here’s what Hitchens says about tea in the US:

“It is already virtually impossible in the United States, unless you undertake the job yourself, to get a cup or pot of tea that tastes remotely as it ought to.”

Christopher Hitchens, Slate, 2011

In the next paragraph he then compares tea to coffee, and in a subsequent paragraph says, “Until relatively few years ago, practically anything hot and blackish or brackish could be sold in America under the name of coffee.” He’s not directly saying he drinks coffee here. But he’s implying that he knows something about drinking coffee. Or that he knows something about America. Or that he knows something about things brackish.

Let’s move on to an article that appeared in The New Yorker, also, serendipitously (or just dipitously), in two-thousand-and-eleven. The article was called “Dinner with Hitchens” and written by the uproariously needling Lauren Collins. Lauren, bless my heart, had the pleasure of having dinner with Christopher Hitchens (and Salman Rushdie!) as well as Hitchens’ wife and agent. There’s one telling sentence in this article: “…I had fantasized about talking (or, more accurately, listening) late into the night, but the party had broken up around midnight, with Hitchens, coffee mug in hand, wandering off into the fug.”

Now, I know what you’re thinking. What the fug is a “fug”? I had certainly never heard that word before this article. But apparently it’s a “warm, stuffy or smoky atmosphere in a room.” So it’s not actually a place. It’s like wandering into a cloud of smoke. We can see Christopher Hitchens doing this, indeed receding into the mist not unlike a young Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams, coffee mug in hand, probably muttering about something or other, a wry smile on his face, his mind certainly moving a thousand miles a minute.

But the important part is he had a coffee mug in his hand.

Which was presumably filled with coffee.

Then there’s this article: “Lunch with the FT: Christopher Hitchens,” written in 2008 by the apparently venerable Edward Luce. This is my favorite article I’ve come across so far in my Hitchens/coffee research. It’s well written. It provides a window into Hitchens’s personality, his life. It talks about how Hitchens attended Oxford at the same time as William Clinton who, from what I can gather, Hitchens thought was a scumbag. It doesn’t, however, talk a ton about coffee. It just has this sentence: ” The thalis are cleared away and we move on to coffee. As we sip, a burly Rastafarian walks past….”

But what else do you need to know? They ate Indian food, they moved on to coffee. They sipped it.

You might be wondering why I care whether or not Christopher Hitchens drank coffee. Well, Hitchens is one of my favorite orators/writers who’s ever existed, and when I find an author I like I like to see what their routines are so I can possibly emulate them. I’m particularly interested in whether or not writers drink coffee. Karl Ove Knausgaard, one of my other favorite writers, drank tons of coffee. Tons of instant coffee, for that matter. Roberto Bolaño, my other favorite writer, famously drank chamomile tea. And smoked tons of cigarettes.

At the same time it’s important to note that you don’t have to emulate the habits of your favorite writers. In fact, you’re probably better off not doing so. I’m not going to smoke just because Karl Ove, and Roberto, and Christopher all smoked. I’m not going to suddenly start drinking gallons of chamomile tea. But I do like to know what they did. I do like to try to figure out how they did it. So that one day I might do it myself.

-W

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