So Long, Hitch

Christopher Hitchens, April 13, 1949-December 15, 2011

photo via andrew sullivan @ the daily beast

Enemies vilified Mr. Hitchens as a godless malcontent. His onetime colleague at the Nation, Alexander Cockburn, called him “lying, self-serving, fat-assed, chain-smoking, drunken, opportunistic [and] cynical.”

Mr. Hitchens was a raffish character who constantly smoked and drank, yet managed to meet every obligation of a frenetic professional and social schedule. A writer for the Observer newspaper in Britain described him as “at once resolute and dissolute.”

Friends and enemies alike marveled at how the hedonistic Mr. Hitchens, after a full evening of drinking and talking, could then sit down and casually produce sparkling essays for Vanity Fair, the Nation, the Atlantic, Slate.com and many other publications without missing a deadline.

“Writing is recreational for me,” he said in 2002. “I’m unhappy when I’m not doing it.”

— The Washington Post

“It’s the fags that’ll get me in the end, I know it,” he said once, at one of our lunches, tossing his pack of Rothmans onto the table with an air of contempt. This was back when you could smoke at a restaurant. As the Nanny State and Mayor Bloomberg extended their ruler-bearing, knuckle-rapping hand across the landscape, Christopher’s smoking became an act of guerrilla warfare. Much as I wish he had never inhaled, it made for great spectator sport.

David Bradley, the owner of The Atlantic Monthly, to which Christopher contributed many sparkling essays, once took him out to lunch at the Four Seasons Hotel in Georgetown. It was—I think—February and the smoking ban had gone into effect. Christopher suggested that they eat outside, on the terrace. David Bradley is a game soul, but even he expressed trepidation about dining al fresco in forty-degree weather. Christopher merrily countered, “Why not? It will be bracing.”

— The New Yorker

photo by Eamonn McCabe for the Guardian

Hitch on Christmas:

As in such dismal banana republics, the dreary, sinister thing is that the official propaganda is inescapable. You go to a train station or an airport, and the image and the music of the Dear Leader are everywhere. You go to a more private place, such as a doctor’s office or a store or a restaurant, and the identical tinny, maddening, repetitive ululations are to be heard. So, unless you are fortunate, are the same cheap and mass-produced images and pictures, from snowmen to cribs to reindeer. It becomes more than usually odious to switch on the radio and the television, because certain officially determined “themes” have been programmed into the system. Most objectionable of all, the fanatics force your children to observe the Dear Leader’s birthday, and so (this being the especial hallmark of the totalitarian state) you cannot bar your own private door to the hectoring, incessant noise, but must have it literally brought home to you by your offspring. Time that is supposed to be devoted to education is devoted instead to the celebration of mythical events. Originally Christian, this devotional set-aside can now be joined by any other sectarian group with a plausible claim—Hanukkah or Kwanzaa—to a holy day that occurs near enough to the pagan winter solstice.

— Slate

Hitch’s Zingers

ON RELIGION

“ To ‘choose’ dogma and faith over doubt and experience is to throw out the ripening vintage and to reach greedily for the Kool-Aid.”

God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, 2007

ON SARAH PALIN

“She’s got no charisma of any kind [but] I can imagine her being mildly useful to a low-rank porn director.”

The Leonard Lopate Show, June 2010

ON HYPOCRITES

“Nothing optional—from homosexuality to adultery—is ever made punishable unless those who do the prohibiting (and exact the fierce punishment) have a repressed desire to participate.”

God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, 2007

ON WOMEN

“Why are women, who have the whole male world at their mercy, not funny?”

Vanity Fair, 2007

ON BARACK OBAMA

“The political rhetoric of Obamaism, alas, is even more bloviating at times than Camelot was.”

Slate, 2009

ON CATS & DOGS

“Owners of dogs will have noticed that, if you provide them with food and water and shelter and affection, they will think you are god. Whereas owners of cats are compelled to realize that, if you provide them with food and water and affection, they draw the conclusion that they are god.”

The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Non-Believer, 2007

ON GEORGE W. BUSH

“[George W. Bush] is lucky to be governor of Texas. He is unusually incurious, abnormally unintelligent, amazingly inarticulate, fantastically uncultured, extraordinarily uneducated, and apparently quite proud of all these things.”

Hardball with Chris Matthews, 2000

ON THE AMERICAN LEFT

“One of the many problems with the American left, and indeed of the American left, has been its image and self-image as something rather too solemn, mirthless, herbivorous, dull, monochrome, righteous, and boring.”

Frontpagemag.com, 2004

ON NEWSPAPERS

“Only the aspirants for president are fool enough to believe what they read in the newspapers.”

C-SPAN, March 1988

ON MICHAEL MOORE

“The laugh here is on the polished, sophisticated Europeans. They think Americans are fat, vulgar, greedy, stupid, ambitious, and ignorant and so on. And they’ve taken as their own, as their representative American, someone who actually embodies all of those qualities,”

—MSNBC’s Scarborough Country, May 2004

ON RACE IN AMERICA

“In this country, it seems that you can always get an argument going about ‘race’ as long as it is guaranteed to be phony, but never when it is real.”

Slate, January 2008

ON JERRY FALWELL

“If [Falwell] had been given an enema, he could have been buried in a matchbox.”

CSPAN, April 2009

Zingers courtesy of The Daily Beast

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