by Christopher Hitchens
As you may be able to tell from my review of Arguably, I have an immense respect for the late Hitchens and his writing. Hitchens had a very clear and unique voice––a point which he makes in Mortality, as he goes off to give writing advice––and he wrote in a way that made it feel as though he was talking directly to you. In Mortality, it’s as though we’re right there with him, in the hospital, after he went through his agonizing treatment to combat the Stage Four cancer that ravaged his esophagus, where he can regale us in detail and in person. (And, he is sure to remind us that there is no Stage Five.)
Part of what makes Mortality such a melancholic read is that Hitchens maintained his voice and his composure in such pain and hardship, even when describing times where he lost both voice and composure. The final chapter, in particular, stuck with me, haunted me. The book being unfinished as of the second-to-last chapter, the final was constructed from Hitchens’ disjointed notes, and it really is the oddest thing. You can still hear the Hitchens’ voice, but it doesn’t have his usual flow; it almost gives everything a sense of urgency, made sadder by the thought that this master of the language didn’t get the opportunity to end his final book the way he wanted to.
Well-written, funny, sad, and insightful, Mortality is a fitting farewell from a wonderful man.