Christopher Hitchens: iconic intellectual or a booze-soaked contrarian with a national platform? The longtime Vanity Fair columnist is nothing if not a study in contradictions—pulling in readers one moment with a brilliant dismantling of politics as usual in Washington before sending them scurrying in distaste the next when railing against the female sense of humor—or lack thereof.
Read more books written and edited by Christopher Hitchens at Kirkus.
Whether he’s submitting to water-boarding or wrestling with God and mortality, Hitchens can’t help but grab our attention and make us re-evaluate our principles—it’s why we’ve come to rely on him. Here, Windsor Mann collects the most memorable of Hitchens’ work in an alphabetized guide to all things Hitch in The Quotable Hitchens: From Alcohol to Zionism: The Very Best of Christopher Hitchens.
On Actors and Actresses: “I’m sure there must be bombshells and starlets who hate animals, despise the poor, look down on the Third World, and prefer their aerosols to the ozone layer. But, somehow, their agents keep them quiet.”
On Death: “I do not especially like the idea that one day I shall be tapped on the shoulder and informed, not that the party is over but that it is most assuredly going on—only henceforth in my absence…Much more horrible, though, would be the announcement that the party was continuing forever, and that I was forbidden to leave.”
On Democracy: “Democracy should not need to be imposed. There is a necessary contradiction there.”
On Drinking: “Many people who might otherwise have died of boredom and irritation, or taken a running jump at themselves, have been kept going by a steady intake of toxins and by the low company this naturally forces them to keep.”
On Exercise: “And, just as a bank won’t lend you money unless you are too rich to need it, exercise is a pastime only for those who are already slender and physically fit. It just isn’t so much fun when you have a marked tendency to wheeze and throw up, and a cannonball of a belly sloshing around inside the baggy garments.”
On Free Speech: “It is not enough to ‘have’ free speech. People must learn to speak freely.”
On God: “Though I like to differ with such a great man, Voltaire was simply ludicrous when he said that if god did not exist it would be necessary to invent him. The human invention of god is the problem to begin with.”
On Greed: “Nobody is more covetous and greedy than those who have far too much.”
On Habits: “Bad habits have brought me this far: why change such a tried-and-true formula?”
On History: “If you’re saying you are changing history, you’re probably not.”
On the Iraq War: “Unless the United States chooses to be defeated in Iraq, it cannot be.”
On Jerusalem: “Jerusalem may not be a ‘holy city’ at all, but just an archaeological site that inspires bad behavior.”
On Journalism: “I became a journalist because I didn’t want to rely on the press for information. Imagine being a reader rather than a writer of newspapers—you would never know what was going on.”
On Martinis: “On the whole, observe the same rule about gin martinis—and all gin drinks—that you would in judging female breasts: one is far too few, and three is one too many. Do try to eat the olives: they can be nutritious.”
On Religion: “If only religion were an opiate. No known narcotic rots the brain so fast.”
On Revolution: “When a subject people believe that they will outlive an oppressive regime, a revolution has begun.”
On Sexual Organs: “Erections could be like cops: often there when you emphatically didn’t require them and sometimes absent when you did. Or so I have been told by friends who thought they could trust me.”
On Virginity: “If asked my opinion about virginity, I would say, ‘I’m opposed to it.’ ”
On Women and Humor: “Why are women, who have the whole male world at their mercy, not funny? Please do not pretend to know what I am talking about.”
On Writing: “I devoutly believe that words ought to be weapons. That is why I got into this business in the first place. I don’t seek the title ‘inoffensive,’ which I think is one of the nastiest things that could be said about an individual writer.”
[Ed. note: All material taken from an advance copy. Please check final copy for details.]