La Parisienne and I had a conversation earlier today about the late Christopher Hitchens. It's not that we're fawning fangirls -- not at all. There were plenty of times when Hitchens frustrated, provoked, and even openly enraged us. I remember one famous incident when we, along with the Kamikaze Editor, hated him for opining that women weren't funny -- that Dorothy Parker wasn't funny either. (What, we're all humorless harridans?) On another front, I found his aggressive atheism to be as much a turn-off as any pushy proselytizing by the religious zealots whom he decried and despised.
But the fact remains that Christopher Hitchens was always worth reading, whether you agreed with him or not. As a writer, he was an artist -- relentless, eloquent, colorful, incisive, and bracingly and even shockingly blunt in his opinions. The man possessed a savage wit, and he could wield words as though they were scalpels. But the beauty and the glory of it all was his unwillingness to hold back. He called things as he saw them, political correctness be damned, and for that I raise a glass to his memory. Slate just posted a collection of some of his greatest hits, to which I add his perspective on fundamentalist religious rage, his crime spree in New York City, and even his infamous assault on Mahatma Gandhi. Hitchens was not afraid of taking on secular pieties and sacred cows of every type. In this day and age of people self-censoring, beating around the bush, and fearing to give offense above all else, one reason I found Hitchens so engaging was that he didn't seem to care at all about that. He lived and thought out loud, and if you took offense, then that was just too bad. I wonder if you might forgive my language if, in the end, I salute him for being a magnificent bastard.
Hitchens leaves behind both legions of fans and legions of haters ... a fact that in itself means he must have done something right. He will be sorely missed.