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Publisher's Summary

On June 8, 2010, while on a book tour for his best-selling memoir, Hitch-22, Christopher Hitchens was stricken in his New York hotel room with excruciating pain in his chest and thorax. As he would later write in the first of a series of award-winning columns for Vanity Fair, he suddenly found himself being deported "from the country of the well across the stark frontier that marks off the land of malady." Over the next 18 months, until his death in Houston on December 15, 2011, he wrote constantly and brilliantly on politics and culture, astonishing readers with his capacity for superior work even in extremis.

Throughout the course of his ordeal battling esophageal cancer, Hitchens adamantly and bravely refused the solace of religion, preferring to confront death with both eyes open. In this riveting account of his affliction, Hitchens poignantly describes the torments of illness, discusses its taboos, and explores how disease transforms experience and changes our relationship to the world around us. By turns personal and philosophical, Hitchens embraces the full panoply of human emotions as cancer invades his body and compels him to grapple with the enigma of death.

Mortality is the exemplary story of one man's refusal to cower in the face of the unknown, as well as a searching look at the human predicament. Crisp and vivid, veined throughout with penetrating intelligence, Hitchens's testament is a courageous and lucid work of literature, an affirmation of the dignity and worth of man.

©2012 Christopher Hitchens (P)2012 Hachette Audio

What listeners say about Mortality

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Death IS the DARK backing

This short collection of writings done by Christopher Hitchens detailing his experience with cancer, dying and mortality reminds me in no little way of a 21st century Montaigne. While I was expecting Hitchens stoic materialism to jump off the page, I was also surprised by his gentleness. This is a man who loved life. He loved his family. He loved his friends. He loved to think, to write and to speak. Is there any greater testament to a life well-lived than to read or listen to a man's final words and walk away from that experience made better by his spirit and his strength. If "death is", to re-use Bellow's phrase, "the dark backing a mirror needs before it can give off a reflection," than Hitch's life and words were that same mirror's silver.

97 people found this helpful

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devastating-ly beautiful and sad

Cancer. Spares no one. Christopher Hitchens nails it. How it feels to have cancer, the fears, the dealing with the stupid things people say to you, to atheism, theism and beyond.

As one who is dealing with Stage 4 cancer and also facing my death, I found Mr. Hitchens words (and those of his wife) comforting, scary and real.

A brilliant book. Hard to listen to as one who is dying. A necessary read for all.

50 people found this helpful

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Hitchens: A Unique Voice to the End

While I may not have always agreed with Christopher Hitchens, I always admired him. He was a light whose brilliance could not be denied, a writer and thinker whose unique voice resounded through the last 40 years of British and American culture. Mortality is a short collection of essays written by Hitchens in the last 18 months of his life, a clear-eyed view of his experience with esophageal cancer and the various treatments he endured in hopes of buying some time.

The thing I loved most about Hitch is that he was never afraid to say out loud or in print what other people were probably thinking but generally kept to themselves. Here, he has plenty to say about clichéed cancer metaphors and euphemisms (like "battling cancer," which comes with the built-in assumption that those who "lose the battle" just haven't fought hard enough). He's at his best telling stories about the hypocrites around him, like the woman in a checkout line who tells him about a relative who had liver cancer, beat it for awhile, then got it again and died--in her opinion, "because he was gay." Was this intended to give Hitchens--a staunch atheist--hope, push him towards a god who would be so feebly vengeful ("Why not a lightning bolt?"), or what? Hitchens is also brutally honest about the devastation of both cancer and chemotherapy--honest, but without wallowing in self-pity. It's as if his own body has become a subject of observation and investigation.

While it's sad, yes, to have lost Christopher Hitchens, Mortality isn't the depressing read you might imagine. It reflects the humor, brilliance, vitality, and clear-eyed realism that readers came to expect from him.

Very finely read by Simon Prebble, with a heartbreaking epilogue by written and read by Hitchens's wife, Carol Blue.

16 people found this helpful

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Living Dyingly

What made the experience of listening to Mortality the most enjoyable?

The narrations! No question.

What did you like best about this story?

My mother was also, unfortunately, a resident of "TumorTown". So, hearing this amazing writer share his journey with such vivid clarity, in some strange way, it brought strength and courage to me. I suppose that is what I most enjoyed about this audiobook. The foreword and the afterword where amazing additions to this book. I can't help but think the book would be incomplete without them. The fact that they were narrated by their respective authors was a pleasant surprise and especially powerful. This is the first time I have ever cried while reading or listening to a book. I have listened to Carol Blue's afterword three times and it moves me if not to tears, nearly to tears, every time. Well done!

What does Simon Prebble bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Simon Prebble is one of the best in the business.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Absolutely!

Any additional comments?

I would really like to know what song is being played at the end of the afterword. If any one reading this know what song it is or where the "credits" of the audio book may be found I would appreciate it.

30 people found this helpful

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Very emotional

The book gives great insight into how one feels when they have an illness. The story is warm, funny, and very sad at the same time. I listened to the entire book in one day and then I listened to it again. I will miss his writings alot.

11 people found this helpful

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Pure clarity on the topic of death.

Death is never a good thing, but Hitchens once again has spurred my motivation. Live life, and live it well is a good motto. But I don't think you'd ever reach the verve of Hitchens. I've never known of anyone so sure that they are correct, and that their path is the right one. While I didn't always agree with his points, I was never as sure about my opinion as he seemed to be about his.

As I listened on, while I already knew the ending, I could not help but think that Hitchens was too smart, too creative, and too boisterous to not find a way to change the course of this inevitable ending. He gave insight into the plight of cancer patients, and intimate thoughts of the terminally ill. Insights that I think you'd only receive from a dear loved one going through the same illness and treatments. In all of his writing, the one thing I took was a severe pride in humanity. We are but clever animals, and look what we have accomplished. And all of us do what we do while knowing this fate awaits us. What courage it takes to live life like we're not dying. He wrote this with that same unending pride and thoughtfulness that he chastised religious believers for forsaking. Spending life on bended knee for an idea that has been improved upon was not for Hitchens.

Dying while pretending he wasn't going to die was not his way either. He took all of the pain of death, and focused on it. He had to full appreciate what he was going through as he wrote about it. That takes some serious intestinal fortitude, and that was the way of Hitchens.

While my rambling review is not great, I highly recommend this book.

32 people found this helpful

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Humor and Sadness: all wrapped up into one.

In contrast to what Richard Dawkins had to say about Christopher Hitchens as an orator (“he was the greatest orator of our time”), in my review of the Audible selection God Is Not Great, I referred to Hitchens’ mumbling narration. And then, the author literally loses his voice. I was angry. Angry at the poor production of the piece which might have had less to do with the narrator and more to do with the producer. But angry more that I could not literally or figuratively hear more of the wonderful voice that was Christopher Hitchens.

Mortality is a very short description of the diagnosis, treatment and last days of the author’s life. While incredibly sad for those among us who admired him so, in these last examples of his work, I believe we mostly hear joy and good humor. I admired the intellect of Christopher Hitchens more than anything and so many scholars of his calibre lack that sense of humor or at least do not include it as part of their literary works; not Hitchens. Here he is funnier than sh*t right to the end.

I often found myself comparing Hitchens in Vanity Fair with Hunter S. Thompson in Rolling Stone. I mostly agreed with both politically up until the Iraq War. Here there seemed to be a dramatic shift in Hitchens’ politics. Most of us on the Left embraced him as one of ours till suddenly he seemed to turn NeoCon. Well maybe he didn’t really. Here we go pigeonholing him and I think a person of Hitch’s stature deserves better than to be labeled left, right or center. “God knows,” one could probably never label him any one of those. We all could embrace Christopher Hitchens as one of ours. It was humanity that he was really all about after all and not any particular politique. Hitchens remained a polemicist right to the end and these essays are here to prove it.

Sorry that you have left us, Hitch. You leave a hole in contemporary, scholarly debate that may not soon be filled.

18 people found this helpful

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No gimmicks, just the facts

Would you listen to Mortality again? Why?

Yes. Well written, expresses the reality of the battle of the human spirit when faced with its mortality, specifically cancer.

What did you like best about this story?

Very factual and real. I could feel his pain and his anguish.

What about Simon Prebble’s performance did you like?

Very well done, cognicent of the late writer himself.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

The afterward by Christopher's wife.. very difficult not to break down with her. My heart goes out to her.

Any additional comments?

I am in the medical field and was moved and enlightened by Christopher's ability to express and describe his emotions and consequences. He is a huge loss to talent.

10 people found this helpful

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Alive

Where does Mortality rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

This was enjoyable in an emotional way. I am a big fan of books that can bring me through a rollercoaster of emotion. This is 4 stars on that ability. I would put this on the upper half of all the great books I have listened to so far, but to give a number ranking would be meaningless to others reading this review unless they know how many of the books here I have actually listened to. I would rather just say it was great.

What did you like best about this story?

Christopher's animated style of writing.

Which scene was your favorite?

The scene in the epilogue painted by his wife coupled with Hitchen's coloring offered shortly before his surmise.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

This short, but enjoyable piece was successful in both of those endeavors.

Any additional comments?

If you are like me, and take the length of a book into your final decision as to whether you buy it or not, this is worth the money or the credit even with the short length.

4 people found this helpful

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  • DS
  • 12-20-12

how do atheists die?

Apparently with great equanimity and ironic humor... and eloquence. I found this calming and refreshing and way more intelligent than the religious alternative.

3 people found this helpful