I haven’t read as many of his books as everyone else seems to have. I thought he was brilliant and fiery and witty and polemical, but when intellectuals and polemicists really counted – after 9/11 – he was swept along with the tide of anti-muslim terrorist hysteria. He was wrong on the great issue of the day: the invasion of Iraq – and he was so stridently, sneeringly, viciously wrong that his vanity never allowed him to walk it back. He spent a huge amount of time, energy and words railing against the existential threat of ‘Islamofascism’ when it turned out the great threat to the hegemony of the west was our own financial system.
He wrote some interesting, funny stuff – especially about religion. But he spent his youth being wrong about Marxist-Leninsm and his middle years being wrong about the War on Terror, and because he was also wrong about the health effects of smoking – brilliantly, cleverly, polemically witty, railing furiously against the ‘anti-smoking fascists’, but still completely wrong – he didn’t get an old age to be right or wrong about anything in.