Hitchens passed away a year ago today. In 2010, Michael reviewed Hitch’s memoir:
Hitchens ends with a stirring and necessary call to arms, upbraiding those who believe that free speech needs to be constrained, that we in the West must learn to be “respectful” of the theological Other: “More depressing still, to see that in the face of this vicious assault so many of the best lack all conviction, hesitating to defend the society that makes their existence possible, while the worst are full to the brim and boiling over with murderous exaltation.”
As I read these words, Viacom was censoring South Park for satirizing the supposed prohibition on depictions of Mohammed; the Swedish artist Lars Vilks, who had drawn the Muslim Prophet, was assaulted during a lecture on free speech and soon thereafter had his house set ablaze; and a Danish newspaper that had reprinted the famous 2005 cartoons issued another groveling apology to those “offended” by pen and ink drawings, promising that the images would never again befoul their pages.
For the unreflective and rigidly ideological, those who insist upon ignoring Hitchens for his pungent atheism, his promotion of war against Iraq, or his rejection of Zionism, be aware that you will miss a book that is touching, enraging, wonderfully crafted, and brimming with gossipy anecdotes. And it answers the question posed by The New Yorker during the darkest days of the Iraq War: What happened to Christopher Hitchens, the man who had a crush on Thatcher, supported wars in the Falklands, Balkans, and Iraq, and scoffed long ago at Alexander Cockburn’s sympathy for the Soviet Union?
Nothing much, actually.