- Paperback: 128 pages
- Publisher: Twelve; Reprint edition (May 13, 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1455502766
- ISBN-13: 978-1455502769
- Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.5 x 7.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars See all reviews (573 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #15,639 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Mortality Paperback – May 13, 2014
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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 --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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 --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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". Undoubtedly most Christians would find such a view repugnant but in any case Hitchens would have no truck with such nonsense. In his autobiography "Hitch 22" he was candid about a lifestyle that some described as "convivial" while others though "excessive" a better term. He argued alternatively that a cigarette permanently locked in his hand and the love of a "second bottle" were as much sources of inspiration for his writing as his limited repertoire of heroes like Paine and Orwell. He knew the source of his problems but that's not the point of this book. It is in essence a slow diary of his journey through ""Tumortown" its excruciating levels of pain, the corresponding fatalism and resignation, its false hopes and eventual knock out blow. There are brilliant passages on figures as diverse as Leonard Cohen, and Nietzsche, a revisiting of the waterboarding torture which Hitchens endured to attack the Bush administration with a about with a searing polemic and finally a weariness at the offerings of possible cancer cures. `You sometimes feel that you may expire from sheer ADVICE", he exclaims in frustration
This short book concludes with a chapter of fragmentary jottings which are in every sense the most affecting part of the book. The broken phrases and quotes show a mind that thinks deeply, still questioning, still at work and debating until the very last. This is despite of "Chemo-brain. Dull, stuporous" and fears that this "lavish torture is only the prelude to a gruesome execution". Hitchens also brilliantly unearths a quote from Saul Bellow which argues with simple insight that "death is the dark backing that a mirror needs if we are able to see anything". Christopher Eric Hitchens was a man who did his fair share of seeing not least on his many travels to chart despotism and dictatorship and to rally against it with clarity not heard since George Orwell. He also always had the right words even when he was fundamentally wrong and the best of his writings are furiously brilliant, deserving the widest readership whether you agree with him or not. Hitchens died on 15th December 2011, and this the book concludes with a tender "Afterword" from his widow Carol Blue. At one point in "Mortality" the author quotes Horace Mann's observation that "Until you have done something for humanity you should be ashamed to die". In the case of the sadly lamented and much missed Christopher Hitchens there was no need to worry about this, you did more than enough.
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!