So it goes.
I haven’t read much Hitchens: his support for the Iraq War turned me off when I would’ve been most interested in his works, and I ended up with the painfully respectful-and-sincere Daniel Dennett as my Atheist Polemicist Of Choice back when atheist polemics were a thing. All I’ve read of Hitchens — at least in published, paid-for, dead-tree form — is his commentary on Thomas Paine’s Rights of Man. It is, of course, damn good.
Much later on I dropped everything and admired the hell out of Hitchens for his vicious eulogy of Jerry Falwell: “If you gave Falwell an enema, he could be buried in a matchbox.” I don’t doubt that his detractors will spend the day trying to one-up that sentence, but I doubt they’ll manage.
My only other personal Hitchens story comes from a few years ago, when Washington, D.C. was fist considering passing a ban on smoking in the city’s bars. I had gone to the city council hearing to speak against it, and was one in a long line of speakers. Hitchens showed up and sat down next those of us opposing the ban. He had a commitment later that afternoon, and the wait to speak was a few hours long. So I offered to switch slots with him. When he started to speak, he reminded Councilman Jim Graham, the sponsor of the smoking ban, that he lived in Graham’s district, and had actually hosted a fundraiser or two for him. Graham’s face lit up. Here was a titan of the left, come to praise him, Jim Graham!
Hitchens then lit into Graham with a tirade against paternalism that included the phrase, “you’re treating us as if we were helpless retarded children.” Graham was crestfallen. It was a beautiful thing.
Here’s Nick Gillespie on the man.