Christopher Hitchens, the outspoken British writer who considered it his mission to skewer hypocrites and defend atheism, died Dec. 15 at the age of 62, from pneumonia and esophageal cancer. The Vanity Fair writer was renowned for his “biting wit,” “muscular prose” and “tartly worded essays,” wrote Matt Schudel in Hitchens’s obituary.
The far-ranging writer brought his characteristic contrarian voice to the pages of The Washington Post, where he contributed book reviews and op-eds for several years. Sadly, many of these were written pre-online-archive-age, but we’ve culled some of the feistiest quotes he’s written on our pages:
• An Atheist Responds, July 14, 2007:
It's uncommonly generous of Michael Gerson ["What Atheists Can't Answer," op-ed, July 13] to refer to me as "intellectually courageous and unfailingly kind," since (a) this might be taken as proof that he hardly knows me and (b) it was he who was so kind when I once rang him to check a scurrilous peacenik rumor that he was a secret convert from Judaism to Christian fundamentalism.
• If You Can Make It Here, Sept. 20, 1998. A review of Jay McInerney’s ”Model behavior: A Novel and 7 Stories”:
My inclination, on encountering a narrator who is still at this late stage a sucker for the downtown yellow cab and the Ristorante Da Sylvano and various crepuscular night spots and their associated painkillers, is to mutter the only useful imprecation coined by American youth culture in the past decade: “Get a life.”
• Drinking In the Lifestyle of an Overseas Reporter, Sept. 12, 1996. A review of Christopher Wren’s “Hacks,” a book about journalists overseas.
Christopher Wren has added to our knowledge of the world's third-oldest profession, which has so much in common with the first two.
• Cry, Baby; Cheap Weeps at the Academy Awards, March 31, 1996:
Last week's Oscar ceremony, which dragged like a wounded snake and whose ringside audience laughed gustily at a fart joke from Whoopi Goldberg, was also punctuated by squeezings of the collective national tear duct. ... Since embarrassment consists of wishing the other person would stop — not just for your sake, but for his — I never thought I could be as embarrassed as I was when Steven Spielberg accepted his Oskar Oscar for "Schindler's List."
• The Princess and the Fractured Fairy Tale, June 23, 1992. A review of Andrew Morton’s “Diana: Her True Story,” and Nicholas Davies’s “Diana: A Princess and Her Troubled Marriage”:
The British public, renowned for its kindness to animals, apparently insists on the regular sacrifice of a human family. At least once every generation, a young princeling or princess is kept, like any Aztec or Inca monarch, in a gilded cage from which the only release is death.
• High Life, Low Life, June 6, 1991. A review of Taki’s “Nothing to Declare: Prison Memoirs”:
One needs a heart of stone to read this book without bursting into peals of laughter.
• Beware Allies Bearing Advice; When Europeans Complain About Our Democracy, Ignore Them, Dec. 21, 1986:
There’s no such thing as an average European, a fact for which there is good reason to be thankful. And there's no such thing as a representative European, either (though there may be European representatives). I'm not sure how thankful to be about that.
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