Christopher Hitchens’s Mortality
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When Christopher Hitchens died in 2011 from cancer of the esophagus, he was arguably the best-known writer of non-fiction in the English language. His books include political journalism, history, and polemic in the most serious sense although those who value his politics regret that he may be most widely known for his militant atheism. His best-selling memoir, Hitch-22, had just been published when he was diagnosed in 2010. Mortality comprises seven articles that Hitchens wrote for Vanity Fair in which he chronicles his experiences in “Tumortown,” plus a collection of fragmentary notes.
Writers who have brought considerable insight to other topics are expected to rise to the occasion of their own critical illnesses and death’s imminence. Hitchens’s expected himself to remain witty, effortlessly well-informed, and perhaps most of all, conversational. “The most satisfying compliment a reader can pay is to tell me that he or she feels personally addressed,” Hitchens writes (50). He...