For a long while now I've skirted Hitchens' books. Not because I find his conclusions offensive--I am a kindred spirit in that Hitch and I both reject the notion that spirits exist--but because his methods seemed unnecessarily pugnacious. Like many people my age (and younger), I've spent more time than I probably should have watching videos of Hitchens, Dawkins, and to a lesser extent, Harris and Dennett on Youtube. If these "Four Horsemen" represent the bold, in-your-face tactics of "New Atheism," consider me a schismatic belonging to the Old (non)Believers. Despite agreeing with the conclusions of these learned men, I could never get behind their derogatory rhetoric. Because of this I never gave their widely acclaimed books, like [b:God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything|43369|God Is Not Great How Religion Poisons Everything|Christopher Hitchens|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1327868670s/43369.jpg|3442838] or [b:The God Delusion|14743|The God Delusion|Richard Dawkins|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1347220693s/14743.jpg|3044365], a chance.
My attitude has changed after reading [b:Mortality|13529055|Mortality|Christopher Hitchens|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1337177391s/13529055.jpg|18446960], however. Even though his oratorical skills are lauded rabidly by philosophical sympathizers, and begrudgingly by detractors, it's Hitchens the writer that impresses me more. His prose is wonderfully casual without becoming flippant, yet subtly erudite at the same time. If he writes his polemics like he writes his memoirs, I'm certainly interested in more.
[b:Mortality|13529055|Mortality|Christopher Hitchens|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1337177391s/13529055.jpg|18446960] is not a book about atheism, torture, or politics (although it does talk about all of them to varying degrees), which are topics Hitchens has become linked with. Instead, at least superficially, it's a book about his "battle with cancer"--this militaristic trope being something he takes the time to discuss at some length. It's a reflective, thoughtful, and wittingly or not, very inspiring book. The last point is what convinced me to give it a 5-star rating, and more importantly, read some more of his work in the future. Not once does he fall back on the tired cliches about cherishing what you have now, because you'll miss it when it's gone, or that terribly hackneyed bit of Latin, carpe diem
. But somehow, despite having no belief in an afterlife, no promise of an eternal reward, only a painfully deteriorating body in the here and now, the pages emanate a cheerful disposition in the face of slow, painful death. It's a beautiful admixture of unrealistic optimism and even keel stoicism.
Though he never exhorts the reader to live their life to the fullest, or admonishes them to not take things for granted, these were among the various messages I took from this wonderful little volume. I can only hope I continue to reflect and meditate on this message for far longer than it took me to read it.