Intellectuals and celebrities from Salman Rushdie to Sean Penn turned out yesterday for a memorial service in New York for notorious writer Christopher Hitchens, who died last December, reports the Guardian. "He was an auto-contrarian: he contradicted himself as if he felt the only person really worth arguing with was Christopher Hitchens," said Martin Amis. Tweeted Stephen Fry: "Many gathered here to say goodbye to the Hitch. Sitting behind Sean Penn which makes me a little nervous. I speak 23rd. Helluva lineup …"
But Hitchens himself got some of the biggest laughs of the memorial, thanks to an 11-minute video compilation put together by Oscar-winning documentary maker Alex Gibney—which you can see at Vanity Fair. As for Hitchens' last words: On his last day, Hitchens tried to write something by hand, but could produce only scribbles, so said "What's the use?" and fell asleep. A couple of hours later, he woke up and said, "Capitalism. Downfall," repeated the words upon request, and died a short time later, writes Andrew Sullivan at his blog The Dish. "In the end was his beginning," adds Sullivan. (Click for more details on the memorial.)