Christopher Hitchens–the incomparable critic, masterful rhetorician, fiery wit, and fearless bon vivant–died today at the age of 62. Hitchens was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in the spring of 2010, just after the publication of his memoir, Hitch-22, and began chemotherapy soon after. His matchless prose has appeared in Vanity Fair since 1992, when he was named contributing editor.
“Cancer victimhood contains a permanent temptation to be self-centered and even solipsistic,” Hitchens wrote nearly a year ago in Vanity Fair, but his own final labors were anything but: in the last 12 months, he produced for this magazine a piece on U.S.-Pakistani relations in the wake of Osama bin Laden’s death, a portrait of Joan Didion, an essay on the Private Eyeretrospective at the Victoria and Albert Museum, a prediction about the future of democracy in Egypt, a meditation on the legacy of progressivism in Wisconsin, and a series of frank, graceful, and exquisitely written essays in which he chronicled the physical and spiritual effects of his disease. At the end, Hitchens was more engaged, relentless, hilarious, observant, and intelligent than just about everyone else–just as he had been for the last four decades.
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Ironically, Chris Hitchens was a formidable force in my conversion from liberalism. I discovered his book No One Left To Lie To about the time that I left the Democrat party, when I was 20 years-old.
It confirmed my worst suspicions about the people I had once so believed in and forever made me a faithful follower of cynicism. Ever the atheist even in the foxhole, he cautioned his friends and fans to not “trouble deaf Heaven with prayers for me,” but most did, anyway.
His voice will be missed.