- 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: 607 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #16,390 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Mortality Paperback – May 13, 2014
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"Dealing unflinchingly with bodily ravagement, reflecting on life's beauty and remaining rakish about his ideological foes, Hitchens proves that great writers are truly immortal."―People, 4-star review
"Remarkable . . . The book's power lies in its simplicity, in its straightforward, intelligent documenting, its startling refusal of showiness or melodrama or grandeur....The great polemicist, essayist, conversationalist, provocateur, arguer, has done something extraordinary in this book. He has created yet another style, another mode, another way of being and thinking and dreaming, on his death bed; he has written in many ways an un-Hitchens-like book, eluding proclamations, resolutions, mastery, wit, at-easeness with opinion, in favor of unnerving directness, of harrowing documentation. He has allowed his dismantled confidence, his undoing to breathe, and to live in the pages, in a way that is startling and new and an achievement unlike his others, different in kind, yet equally ambitious and relentlessly honest."―Katie Roiphe, Slate.com
"Like virtually everything he wrote over his long, distinguished career, diamond-hard and brilliant . . .vivid, heart-wrenching and haunting - messages in a bottle tossed from the deck of a sinking ship as its captain, reeling in agony and fighting through the fog of morphine, struggles to keep his engines going . . . a final, defiant, and well-reasoned defense of his non-God-fearingness . . . It is, however, sobering and grief-inducing to read this brave and harrowing account of his 'year of living dyingly' in the grip of an alien that succeeded where none of his debate opponents had in bringing him down."―Christopher Buckley, New York Times Book Review
"This trenchant, sassy, tragically posthumous little black book earns a proud spot on the end-of-life shelf, along with Julian Barnes' Nothing to Be Frightened Of, Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking, Leo Tolstoy's The Death of Ivan Ilyich, Joan Wickersham's The Suicide Index, Saul Bellow's Ravelstein, and Philip Roth's Everyman and Exit Ghost, to name just a few."―NPR.org
"A book driven by his desire to look death squarely in the face and provoked by detractors who were certain he would turn to religion when confronted with it. He did not... [MORTALITY is] full of humility, a humility worthy of kings."―Newsday
"The melancholy irony of 'Mortality' is that it gave our best essayist - I can't think of someone who comes even close - the chance to grapple with the most intractable subject, to wrestle with the angel of death in a battle we will all have to lose at one time or another.....The voice is gone. The words remain."―The New York Daily News
"These essays are brave and fitting final words from a writer at the end of his journey."―Bookpage
"There are no clever pitches to diminish the horror vacui of oblivion. He offers no self-pity or special pleading. The book is tough-minded . . . poignant, but the poignancy is ours, not his."―Wall Street Journal
"Mortality is a crash course in lived philosophy....bracing."―Salon
"Stark and powerful... Hitchens's powerful voice compels us to consider carefully the small measures by which we live every day and to cherish them."―Publisher's Weekly (Starred)
About the Author
Christopher Hitchens was a contributing editor to Vanity Fair, Slate, and The Atlantic, and the author of numerous books, including works on Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, and George Orwell. He also wrote the international bestsellers god Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, Hitch-22: A Memoir, and Arguably. He died in 2011.
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In them, while Hitchens remains politically sharp and critical of religion, there is also a deeper reflection that is not possible except when writing on the only subject that really matters: life itself. He describes what it was like being diagnosed with esophageal cancer (the same type that killed his father) that had metastasized before it was even discovered. Soon, he begins chemotherapy and in the process loses his hair, body mass, ability for physical intimacy, and strength. It is made most real in those moments he discusses losing even the ability to grow five o'clock shadow. The worst deprivation, however, is the intermittent loss of his voice. While he admits it is occasionally hard to think while a needle pumps strong poison into one's arm, he fortunately never lost his ability to write.
In total, there are seven previously published essays. Besides the first one announcing the cancer's early stages, the best essay in the collection is his one on Friedrich Nietzsche. It also happens to be the last one he published before he died. After that, the book includes some final, random jottings; little bits of fleece he shed here and there that were collected into a fine coat. The last writing in the book comes from Carol Blue, his wife of many years, and she reveals a side of him that many did not get to see.
I cannot say this is a book I enjoyed reading because it was born from the death of a very fine man. It is, however, the best tombstone a man of his talents could offer.
Books about dying are hardly upbeat, but Hitchens kept his humor throughout the ordeal and never lost his famous ability for clarity and engaging the reader. A good read on a hard subject.
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.