I had not previously read, listened to, nor followed Christopher Hitchens, a writer whose articles appeared frequently in Vanity Fair, Slate, and the Atlantic and whose books included writings on Bill Clinton, Henry Kissinger, George Orwell, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine and included God Is Not Great, The Portable Atheist, and Hitch-22, among others.
But when I read about his last book Mortality, I was intrigued.
This very short book (104 pages) is a compilation of the seven award-winning articles he wrote for Vanity Fair as he struggled with esophageal cancer for the last 18 months of his life (and includes a “Forward” by Graydon Carter and an informative “Afterward” by his wife Carol Blue).
Hitchens is neither the first nor the last to write personally about the end of life. But he has to be one of the best, at least one of the best I’ve read.
In a book that can be read in an afternoon, Hitchens uses his considerable writing talent and his honesty to give his readers not only an account of his illness and impending death but also his insights to his end of life. Specifically, he writes of the gradual loss of his two biggest assets, his voice and his pen.
Without self-pity, he also writes about his regret, his sorrow, and his anguish at having to “leave the party” before he is ready. He died in Dec. 2011 at the age of 62.
James Cooke said:
Boy, did he know how to party! Though I disagreed with his support for our invasion and occupation of Iraq, I respected his passionate defense of the Kurdish people who had to endure the tyranny of Saddam. He grew particularly close to the Kurds while covering them in his reporting. I am just certain that we didn’t have to lose 4,000 American lives and 40-100,000 Iraqi lives to “protect” the Kurds. I think Hitch came to believe the same.