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Hitchens will appear at Alabama debate Tuesday

September 3, 2010 |  8:11 am


Christopher Hitchens, who was diagnosed with esophageal cancer this summer, forcing the cancellation of his book tour, will appear in Birmingham, Ala., for a debate on Tuesday. The event will be held by the Christian Fixed Point Foundation, which has hosted Hitchens before.

Hitchens appeared on video this summer while undergoing chemotherapy treatments -- at The Atlantic, with Anderson Cooper and Charlie Rose -- looking thin, and, startlingly, mostly bald. 

According to Lori Lenz, who is doing press for the Fixed Point Foundation and who confirmed Hitchens' appearance late Thursday, Hitchens is "bored" with his cancer treatments and is looking forward to going to Alabama for the debate.

Hitchens described his feelings about those cancer treatments in the first of his Vanity Fair columns about his illness. "When you sit in a room with a set of other finalists, and kindly people bring a huge transparent bag of poison and plug it into your arm, and you either read or don’t read a book while the venom sack gradually empties itself into your system, the image of the ardent soldier or revolutionary is the very last one that will occur to you. You feel swamped with passivity and impotence: dissolving in powerlessness like a sugar lump in water."

In the October issue of Vanity Fair, he again writes about cancer, this time about those who have decided to pray for him -- some have designated Sept. 20 as Pray for Hitchens Day. "What if I pulled through and the pious faction contentedly claimed that their prayers had been answered? That would somehow be irritating," he writes. ".... when September 20 comes, please do not trouble deaf heaven with your bootless cries. Unless, of course, it makes you feel better."

Hitchens is, apparently, feeling well enough to wield his laptop with characteristic style. Writing this week in Slate about Glenn Beck's Washington rally, he recalled attending a "tea party" event earlier this year: "the overall effect was large, vague, moist, and undirected: the 'Waterworld' of white self-pity"

In Alabama, Hitchens will face off against David Berlinsky on the topic, "Does Atheism Poison Everything?" In case there was any doubt, Hitchens will be speaking on the side of atheism.

Tickets to the Fixed Point Foundation debate are $25; packages going up to $125 include a luncheon and pre-debate reception. Those who want to see Hitch in person but can't make it to Alabama might try the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va. -- its student government just approved a $15,000 speakers' fee to bring Christopher Hitchens to campus on Sept. 27 for a debate on the Middle East.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Christopher Hitchens at a prior debate at the Fixed Point Foundation. Credit: Fixed Point Foundation