Wednesday, August 29, 2012

MORTALITY by Christopher Hitchens (2012) McClelland & Stewart, 104 pages

This new collection of Hitchens's personal essays from his year of "living dyingly" is a perfect wee tome, rife with his legendary candour and fierce intelligence. It was on my doorstep when I arrived home from work yesterday and I sat down immediately to thumb through it and couldn't stop.

Several of the pieces were familiar to me as previously published in Vanity Fair where he was a contributing columnist for years. Its managing editor Graydon Carter provides the foreword in which he notes, "Christopher was one of life's singular characters--a wit, a charmer, a trouble-maker, and a dear and devoted friend. He was a man of insatiable appetites--for cigarettes, for scotch, for company, for great writing, and, above all, for conversation. That he had an output to equal what he took in was the miracle in the man."

Mortality includes seven full essays, an eighth instalment of a selection of final scribblings and an incredibly moving afterword by Hitchens's widow Carol Blue, the directness of which had me weeping for her great lost love. What an extraordinary love theirs was. It puts me in mind of Chandler's remarkable affection for his wife Cissy Pascal, who "for thirty years, ten months and four days," he claimed, "was the light of my life, my whole ambition. Anything else I did was just the fire for her to warm her hands at."

Read Hitchens again in his own voice. It is good and true and as familiar as the rhythm of your own heart.


Beth Hoffman said...

This sounds wonderful and is going on my list. Thank you for the recommendation, Janet!

Janet said...

You are so sweet to comment on so many posts, Beth. I miss Hitchens' candour and wit. As an essayist, few match his talent.