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Mortality - Christopher Hitchens

I’m one of those people who always enjoyed hearing Christopher Hitchens speak—on anything—in his confrontational style, with his humor, his lightning-fast logic, with the breadth and depth of his intellect always on display. I miss Christopher Hitchens. Even when I disagreed with his position (the invasion of Iraq), I’d still marvel at his grasp of fact and adamant (belligerent) defense. I miss him.

In Mortality, Hitchens describes his diagnosis, treatment and the subsequent failure of the body, while elaborating on the ‘fighting’ illness metaphor, his trademark stance on superstition (religion), and the importance of friendship, including his religious friends whose treatment of him, while ill, speaks well of them. He writes about the irony of prayer, what to say/not say to those who are terminal, and losing one’s voice. Never whiny or self-pitying, Hitchens’ plight unfolds in his own words before trailing away into partial thoughts—paragraphs and thoughts included by his wife in the text, some spoken to already, but perhaps only partially. An all-too-brief account of Hitchens’ ‘year of living dyingly.’

Myself, I love the imagery of struggle. I sometimes wish I were suffering in a good cause, or risking my life for the good of others, instead of just a gravely endangered patient. Allow me to inform you, though, that when you sit in a room with a set of other finalists, and kindly people bring a huge transparent bag of poison and plug it in your arm, and you either read or don’t read a book while the venom sack gradually empties itself into your system, the image of the ardent soldier or revolutionary is the very last one that will occur to you.

Five stars, unapologetically. It’s Hitchens—to give it less would be to blame him for not living longer.