We’ve invited Dabblers to contribute their image of the year. Today we hear from Gaw, Mark Pack and Susan.

Gaw: My picture of the year (top) is in memoriam: the cover shot from Christopher Hitchens’ recent memoir.

A grave-dancer left a comment on the New Yorker’s remembrance accusing Hitchens of being full of himself. So true. Rarely can anyone have been so completely full of himself: even his looks were of a piece with his sparkling written style (at least in the earlier days). And given he seemed to have read, and absorbed, just about everyone this particular self was multitudinously replete.

‘Sparkling’ is a word that often comes to mind when reading Hitchens’ prose, perhaps especially his literary criticism. However, it occurs to me now that it is potentially misleading. Surfaces sparkle, and though he could be sweeping in his judgements, he was usually forensic in how he arrived at them. He was an incredibly close and intuitive reader: individual words, a particular syntax, a brief sketch, could provide the key to a whole oeuvre. As a consequence, whilst his prose did indeed sparkle, it was rarely flashily superficial; like a bottle of champagne, the effervescence went deep. Champagne of a pretty old and rare vintage too – there’s a rather old-fashioned sententiousness amidst the fizz.

Not that he appeared to care much for ‘poo: he thought it overrated, along with lobster, picnics and anal sex. With respect to this little list, I believe he was only half right, and he was, of course, capable of being wholly wrong. More often than not though, he was impressively wrong: one wouldn’t be too surprised to learn he’d arrived at his quartet of disappointments in the course of a single al fresco sitting.

I really will miss him, not something I can say about many people I’ve never met. At its most simple, just like excellent champagne, he’s given me an enormous amount of pleasure. I’ll be raising a decent glass of the stuff to him this Christmas.

Mark Pack: I could try to come up with some reference about how 2011′s scientific advances have taken us that bit closer to understanding the structure of the universe, or how a vista of cold, black space symbolises our economic outlook. But really, it’s just an amazing photo. Enjoy.

(Take a closer look here).


When Japan was hit by the tsunami, ShopCurious was considering the links between celebrities, fashion, art and religion. The 21st century has produced some curious icons – many having ‘non-ebrity’ status… they are simply famous for being famous. I went to see Anna Nicole at the Royal Opera House (above), which for me marked out the year as a high point in the annals of celebrity worship.  It was also in March that Elizabeth Taylor died. A month later, the star of the Royal Wedding was Pippa’s bottom (below).

Finally, I saw a pink elephant in Cornwall (and I was completely sober at the time).

  1. Worm on Wednesday 28, 2011

    Doesn’t that pink Cornish elephant perfectly sum up the crapness of a British holiday? A manky fibreglass animal long past it’s best standing folornly on the side of a duel carriageway with a leaden sky and sickly fields in the background. Lovely.

  2. Brit on Wednesday 28, 2011

    With you on The Hitch, Gaw. We knew it was coming, but God, what a loss to those of us who like writers. One of the great stylists – even when you knew he was wrong or wildly OTT (as on religion), you couldn’t help but gape in wonder at the style. I don’t know if that will be enough to make him remembered, but he deserves to be because he was incredibly brave, including physically brave.

  3. Rosie on Wednesday 28, 2011

    I’ve been listening to the audio book of Christopher Hitchens reading his own God is not Great. I have read the book and think it’s crude and reductive and shallow, and not up to some of his other writings He reads it in that beautiful Richard Burton voice and I am totally seduced by it. Hitchens did have a highly seductive style both in his writing, and from what people have been saying, in person. I’m going to miss him badly. When I heard that Havel and North Korea’s Supreme Great & Very Large Leader had both died immediately after him, my first thoughts were how much I would have liked to have read what Hitchens had to say about them. It would have been something worth reading.

  4. mahlerman on Wednesday 28, 2011

    I flatter myself that a phrase often used by my family and friends about me, could equally be shared with the great Hitch – ‘seldom in doubt, often wrong’

  5. [...] December 31, 2011 Stop the year! We’ve just received a last minute entry for our Images of 2011 [...]