I would recommend this audiobook to a friend but only if that friend was familiar with at least some of Hitchens's vast volume of work. It would be a disservice to said friend, and to the late Hitchens himself if his observations about the process of dying were taken without some understanding of the man behind them.
Christopher Hitchens takes the reader with him through all the physical, medical, social, and cultural indignities that those dying from terminal cancer experience. His commentary on what starts as hope, and ends as resignation is witty, wry, and incredibly sad. I am one of those who was unaware of Hitchens during his life, and only came to appreciate him after he was gone. He was a brave man - it can rightly be said that he lived the hell out of the life he had, and he kept going past the point where stronger people might rightly have quit.
The author and his battle against cancer were the characters of the book - I thought Simon Prebble did a great job, particularly at the end of the book, at which point the narrative ceases, and there are a number of notes Hitchens had left behind relating to the book. Prebble read them in a thoughtful, considered way, that breathed Hitchens into them. It could easily have come out sounding more like a To Do list.
My overwhelming reaction was sorrow that there was no more of Christopher Hitchens in this world to be had. Despite his talent and the huge body of work, both in letters and in speeches and debates that can be found in any number of places on the Internet, there's no more of that cutting intellect and brilliant reasoning that was the essence of Hitchens. He was a finite resource, and Mortality at least gave me some room to mourn what I'd discovered and lost, all within a short period of time.
It's not a happy book. There is no happy ending. If you've found Hitchens already, then you're probably aware of Richard Dawkins, and Sam Harris, just to name two of his peers who have some very interesting views in common. If you haven't read them, you should. They, too, are entirely logical, unrepentant atheists, and represent angles of atheism that Hitchens sometimes touched on, and often discussed with both of these gentlemen. Look them up on YouTube when you get a chance.
Apparently with great equanimity and ironic humor... and eloquence. I found this calming and refreshing and way more intelligent than the religious alternative.
Much shorter than I would have liked, but in the two hours of audio, Hitchens brings to life the struggle of a man in the throws of a losing battle with stage 4 Esophogeal Cancer. This is a particularly nasty cancer that leaves little doubt as to outcome, just a question of how long. Hitchens brings his brand of insight and eloquence to a situation that is in some sense hopeless.
In the course of doing so we will all be able to better understand what thoughts, what emotions have gone through the minds of all those whom we love but have struggled with some form of a serious hopital stay. I don't know, but perhaps this would have shifted the tone and topics of conversation I had with loved ones who didn't make it through. It is incredibly difficult to put yourself in their shoes unless you've been there. Having been there recently and having read this viciously short, eloquent and insightful bit from Hitchens, I don't think I'll approach sickness and hospitals in the same way.
I do wish that there had been some more of self-indulgence and/or self-pity, but he didn't want to revel in those feelings, yet clearly it is something with which all in such situations suffer. A man with such eloquence and insight would have certainly shed new light on this aspect of serious / terminal disease.
Much has been made about the "fact" that Hitchens didn't change his world view when confronted with the end of his life. Unfortunately the brevity and scope of the book I don't believe would have allowed any of these issues to be addressed. There was talk at the end of the larger book he had still hoped to write. He at some point rails against the Randy Pausch approach to passing, but at the end perhaps the book I had hoped to read would have been Hitchens' version of that approach. I didn't want to hear more argument about or criticism of religion and how others choose to live, but I wanted to hear about the beauty and virtue of Hitchens' secular humanism.
Nonetheless, this book will touch you and change the way you empathize with terminal disease / serious hospital stay patients and for that reason alone it is highly recommended.
I found Christopher Hitchens. I am searching for more of his works. He has an irreverence that I find fascinating. I would not have liked this material at any other point in my life, but today it was inspirational.
Hitchens ongoing humor in the face of a painful death is awe inspiring.
I did listen in one sitting it wasn't very long, but neither was Hitchen's life.
It was eye opening. I hope to find many other of Hitchens insights and outlooks.
great man. great book. wish it were longer. it was nice mix of his philosophies and his environment near the end of his life as he battles cancer and comes to grips with his inevitable last words. 5 stars.
the raw beauty of an amazing soul pondering the inevitable to be or naught
Doing Death in the Active
My affection for Christopher Hitchens has really only blossomed in his wake, thanks to his echoes reverberating on youtube. Learning of this book, I checked reviews in part to confirm that the "sample" was not an accurate reflection of the book's contents; the sample was a bit of a foreword/eulogy by someone other than "the Hitch" from whom I was interested in hearing on the terribly intimate topic of "mortality."
I scrolled through many glowing reviews and snagged on one that seemed angered by the narrator's high speed disregard for Christopher's trademark eloquent cadence... briefly I wondered if I should take the trouble to read his words (so I could "hear" Hitch saying them in my mind)... but audio is often an easier option. A little ways in, I realized that angry review had infected my thinking and my frustration at the lack of cadence had initiated a letter writing campaign in my brain that would be demanding a "do over" - a more respectfully read version of Mr. Hitchen's final book, forthwith! ...I began to wish I hadn't read the complaint... but further on, when I heard this narrator speaking Christopher's words as he eulogized the very loss of his own physical voice, I felt the pain of our loss more clearly, as this bloom's procession inevitably advanced. Poignant book, whether read
I had read this back when it came out and just decided to give it another listen. Hitchens contemplates his existence as he tells of his cancer diagnosis, his treatments, and his failing body. He does so in a way destinctive of his life- brashly, without apology, and always a lining of hope and curiosity.
A short but captivating book about a courageous man contemplating. his mortality. A sobering and honest account of a brave man facing death. written as only Christopher Hitchens can.