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Mortality [Kindle Edition]

Christopher Hitchens
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (475 customer reviews)

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Kindle Price: $9.74
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Book Description

On June 8, 2010, while on a book tour for his bestselling memoir, Hitch-22, Christopher Hitchens was stricken in his New York hotel room with excruciating pain in his chest and thorax. As he would later write in the first of a series of award-winning columns for Vanity Fair, he suddenly found himself being deported "from the country of the well across the stark frontier that marks off the land of malady." Over the next eighteen months, until his death in Houston on December 15, 2011, he wrote constantly and brilliantly on politics and culture, astonishing readers with his capacity for superior work even in extremis.

Throughout the course of his ordeal battling esophageal cancer, Hitchens adamantly and bravely refused the solace of religion, preferring to confront death with both eyes open. In this riveting account of his affliction, Hitchens poignantly describes the torments of illness, discusses its taboos, and explores how disease transforms experience and changes our relationship to the world around us. By turns personal and philosophical, Hitchens embraces the full panoply of human emotions as cancer invades his body and compels him to grapple with the enigma of death.

MORTALITY is the exemplary story of one man's refusal to cower in the face of the unknown, as well as a searching look at the human predicament. Crisp and vivid, veined throughout with penetrating intelligence, Hitchens's testament is a courageous and lucid work of literature, an affirmation of the dignity and worth of man.


Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, September 2012: Curious and prolific to the end, combative writer Christopher Hitchens leaves us with a posthumously published analysis of his dying days. Mortality is the anti–Last Lecture: Stripping away semantics and sentimentality, Hitchens treats his cancer as he would any other topic--with dogged inquisitiveness and brutal honesty. Which makes it all the more poignant when he begins losing his voice, his "freedom of speech," and sinks deeper into his "year of living dyingly." Funny, smart, irreverent, and surprisingly moving, this lucid, unflinching end-of-life journey through "Tumorville" is brave and powerful stuff. The unfinished jottings that comprise the final pages are a heartbreaking display of a mind that never stopped till the very end. --Neal Thompson

From Bookforum

Mortality is an odd little book, neither fully a cancer memoir nor a meditation on the meanings we attribute to the disease . . . More honestly ironic, more like the Hitchens of old, before the religion wars and the war on terror and the gonzo grandstanding. It is Mortality at its most generous and most human: just another man dying, making a joke and telling a story. —Jeff Sharlet

Product Details


Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
320 of 333 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A no-holds-barred discussion of dying August 25, 2012
Format:Hardcover
Christopher Hitchens never shied away from telling the truth - at least the truth as he saw it - and when he was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer in June, 2010, he started "living dyingly," writing about his experiences with the illness. The stoicism with which he wrote, and the lucidity in the face of immanent death ("there is no stage 5"), go very well with the way Hitchens faced the rest of his life. Having only recently completed a memoir, Hitch 22, and on his book tour when he had symptoms which led to his diagnosis, Hitchens realized that he needed to tell the story of this cancer as he had just told the story of his life.

If you're familiar with Hitchens' writings, you'll certainly recognize the trenchant approach here to becoming a resident of "tumortown." In this brief book, composed of essays he wrote for Vanity Fair, Hitchens explains what it feels like to be dying, yet doesn't feel sorry for himself or for his lifestyle that may have contributed to his cancer. (His father died of the same cancer as well, so part may be genetic.)

You'll read this book in an hour or two, but you'll also want to come back to it from time to time. While the chapters are composed - these are articles, not journal entries - there is a spontaneity throughout them, as his condition worsens, and as hope seems to recede.

Hitchens again shows with his words that cut like scalpels that he was one of the finest voices of his generation, and we're not likely to see another like him for a very long time.
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200 of 213 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
It came as no surprise that one of the greatest and most remarkable troublemakers and polemicists Britain has ever produced didn't leave without having a few important things to say. The late great Christopher Hitchens used the pages of Vanity Fair during his battle against a tumor in his esophagus to partly apply the maxim of Dylan Thomas to "rage, rage against the dying of the light". That said you sense throughout the pages of "Mortality", a book collecting those special essays, that Hitchens instinctively felt that this was one argument he wasn't going to win. As such his tangle with death is a level headed but poignant dalliance with the slow degradation of a body which graphically charts the "wager" with chemotherapy taking "your taste buds, your ability to concentrate, your ability to digest and the hair on your head". He is painfully honest and reflective throughout about his predicament not least the "gnawing sense of waste" and the reality of becoming an early "finalist in the race of life". Yet it wouldn't be Hitchens if the opportunity for settling some old scores was not taken and in particular his restatement of his vociferous views on atheism despite the fact that September 20th 2010 was designated by one religious website as "Everyone pray for Hitchens day".

Others were less charitable for in some quarters at the onset of Hitchens illness produced a vicious form of schadenfreude not least amongst his many enemies in the Christian right where his strong opinions on religion had provoked and outraged those not prepared to countenance any debate. He quotes an opinion from an religious blog that viewed his throat cancer as "Gods revenge for him using his voice to blaspheme him".
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220 of 237 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Atheist Transcendent, the final chapter to Hitch-22 August 25, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Other reviewers have already made comment on this book's overall structure. This is a fine reprinting of Hitch's award-winning essays as he approached his final hour, so there is no new information in most of the book. In his inimitable way, he draws you in not only with his fine prose, but his humanity. You can't help but feel pathos in this work. And where the emotion ends, he lines up the last words and wisdom of so many other literary figures as evidence for his case on "dying livingly."

What makes this book worthy to add to your bookshelf is the final chapter, the unpublished scribblings of Hitchens which give us a window not only into his final thoughts, but perhaps how the master crafted his essays...first as an idea, then a polished quip or two. For me, these classic one-liners and Hitch-slaps are worth the price of the book. The final tribute, by his wife Carol, gives us more insight into the private man than he allowed himself in his memoir, Hitch-22. If there is one error, it was made by Hitchens himself, who lamented that he might not live to write the obituaries of his villains--Kissinger and Pope Benedict. In fact, he had already done so in his canon of work, from "The Trial of Henry Kissinger" to "god is Not Great." In these works, he managed to in fact, have the final word on Kissinger, Catholicism, and many other sacred cows that are "dead enough"--as he might have quipped. He now joins the pantheon--pardon the word--of past great critics, from Twain to Mencken. For the literate, he will always live on. Overall, A moving, swift read that will linger in your mind long after the last page.
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80 of 88 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good; so short I can't believe the kindle price October 6, 2012
By Lisa
Format:Hardcover
This book is very, very good - as with most of the author's work. However, it's also the about the length of a Vanity Fair article yet look at the (kindle) price! While I don't begrudge the author the length or his family the royalties I do want to take the publishers to task (and hope Amazon will actually print this review): You had the last work of a truly great man and you decided to rip off his loyal readers! Shame on you. This book is the second super short kindle book I've downloaded in the past month (at full price) and I'm done. I will no longer trust that a kindle version is worth buying until I check the length and reviews.

Honestly, I feel bad docking the author's review on this...he wrote a great article. But I wish another reviewer had done the same and had pointed out the length (they may have more recently; I checked the reviews shortly after the book came out and didn't recheck before buying). I would not have bought the book had I noted the length - my mistake but I just didn't think a major publisher would do such a thing. I won't do it again.

To anyone wanting to read Mortality - it's touching and brilliant and deeply honest. A great read. But don't get the kindle edition!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars His tone carries through this short book beautifully, and the last few...
It isn't often that you get to read about the view of mortality from a non-believer. There are innumerable books that talk about the afterlife, spirituality, and salvation, but to... Read more
Published 14 days ago by Elizabeth Sayre
5.0 out of 5 stars Well worth the read
I have always loved Christopher Hitchens smart and acerbic writing. This, his last book, is no exception. I miss his style and his insights.
Published 17 days ago by DianaG
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
not his best work, but he was, after all, dying. so it was very significant.
Published 18 days ago by Samuel W. Needleman
5.0 out of 5 stars Good read
Life over way too soon. He will be missed. A fantastic voice for all atheists. A formidable man to beat back the senseless of organized religion.
Published 22 days ago by mike harper
5.0 out of 5 stars An Honest Look at Death
Hitch pulls no punches, offering the reader a glimpse of the mental and physical battles he faced during the final year of his life. Read more
Published 1 month ago by mikephd80
5.0 out of 5 stars Touching. Chilling. Honest
Great read. Hard to stomach at times. Well written and an honest insight into the final days of a great man.
Published 1 month ago by CAMERON PEARSON
5.0 out of 5 stars good
First book of Hitchens that I have read (I have read articles but not any of his books). Obviously he is a very talented writer. Read more
Published 1 month ago by crys1124
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
His insistence on sharing his last thoughts with the public is admirable.
Published 1 month ago by Happycustomer
1.0 out of 5 stars Not to my liking
A very irreverent, disturbing book. I had just experienced the death of a close friend and this book gave me no hope or peace of mind. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Norma Jean
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Glad I have THIS TREASURE!!!
Published 2 months ago by Book Bug
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More About the Author

Christopher Hitchens (1949-2011) was the author of Letters to a Young Contrarian, and the bestseller No One Left to Lie To: The Values of the Worst Family. A regular contributor to Vanity Fair, The Atlantic Monthly and Slate, Hitchens also wrote for The Weekly Standard, The National Review, and The Independent, and appeared on The Daily Show, Charlie Rose, The Chris Matthew's Show, Real Time with Bill Maher, and C-Span's Washington Journal. He was named one of the world's "Top 100 Public Intellectuals" by Foreign Policy and Britain's Prospect.

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