LIVE FROM THE NYPL
A Conversation with Christopher Hitchens With video
On June 4, 2010, three days before he became gravely ill, I spoke to Christopher Hitchens about his memoir, Hitch 22. I was particularly taken not by the politics, which everyone knew and though of interest, mattered less to me just then, than the literary side. Hitch was a great reader and more candid in print about his life, his mother and father, his origins.
When I played W. H. Auden reading, and Isaiah Berlin teaching a class on Russian Thought at Oxford, Christopher’s eyes lit up. He felt pleasure in reciting poetry, moving his lips to Auden’s reading, and hearing his old professor, Isaiah Berlin talk. A less pugilist side to Hitch. And then that evening, there was the memoir and the 2 minute clip you are about to see where we spoke about death and dying and our mutual interest in obituaries.
When I asked him why write the memoir now, he answered simply: You’ve got to do it in time.
Paul Holdengräber is the Director of Public Programs at The New York Public Library and founder and Director of LIVE from the NYPL.
Since his arrival in 2004, he has reinvented the Library’s event series under the new name LIVE from the NYPL. Instead of only lectures and readings, there are now lively conversations, debates, and surprise performances. In January 2006 Publishers Weekly characterized LIVE as “The Holdengräber Happening . . . [which] has brought intellectual sparkle to book events at NYPL.” In February 2007 W Magazine noted: “With a quirky docket of intellectual events, Paul Holdengräber has turned the New York Public Library into an after-dark hot spot.” Holdengräber has curated over 150 programs on an array of subjects from the politics of “Who Owns Culture?” to the “Battle Over Books” with Google’s library print project to a discussion on “Lust” with Esther Perel and Laura Kipnis, moderated by Holdengräber.
The scope of programming has ranged from the passionately charged Christopher Hitchens and Al Sharpton debate on God is Not Great to an evening with Mario Batali, Bill Buford and Anthony Bourdain discussing “Kitchen Secrets” and Buford’s book, Heat. As interviewer on the LIVE from the NYPL stage, Holdengräber has been in conversation with Werner Herzog, Jan Morris, Adam Phillips, Alfred Brendel, Edmund White, David Remnick, Adam Gopnik, Frank Rich, Orhan Pamuk, Umberto Eco with Pierre Bayard, Peter Nadas and Clive James. Holdengräber’s role as interviewer has taken him abroad to engage writers and artists in literary festivals in Europe. Participants he has been in conversation with internationally include Alberto Manguel in Barcelona, Wayne Koestenbaum and Allen Kurzweil in Berlin and Daniel Barenboim and others in Paris for the Franco-German TV station, Arte. Since 2008, Holdengräber has hosted programs featuring James Wood, Spike Lee, Antonio Lobo Antunes, Joan Didion, Feran Adria, Toni Morrison, Jeffrey Sachs, Charlie Rose, Zadie Smith, John Waters, Keith Richards, Edwidge Danticat, Lou Reed, JAY-Z, Patti Smith and many others.