At least one more book by Hitchens will be published. Mortality, apparently the story of his battle with cancer, comes out September 4, is short (128 pages), and can already be ordered at Amazon. Some jottings of Hitchens have just been published at Slate, along with a slideshow of some photographs. As the website notes:
Publisher’s note: These fragmentary jottings, published as the last chapter of Christopher Hitchens’ new book, Mortality, were left unfinished at the time of Hitchens’ death in December. Annotations by Slate editor David Plotz.
Here are a few of them, and they’re sad:
“Remember, you too are mortal”—hit me at the top of my form and just as things were beginning to plateau. My two assets my pen and my voice—and it had to be the esophagus. All along, while burning the candle at both ends, I’d been “straying into the arena of the unwell” and now “a vulgar little tumor” was evident. This alien can’t want anything; if it kills me it dies but it seems very single-minded and set in its purpose. No real irony here, though. Must take absolute care not to be self-pitying or self-centered.******Only OK if I say something objective and stoical: Ian remarking that a time might come when I’d have to let go: Carol asking about Rebecca’s wedding “Are you afraid you won’t see England again?”Also, ordinary expressions like “expiration date”…will I outlive my Amex? My driver’s license? People say—I’m in town on Friday: will you be around? WHAT A QUESTION!
Now so many tributes that it also seems that rumors of my LIFE have also been greatly exaggerated. Lived to see most of what’s going to be written about me: this too is exhilarating but hits diminishing returns when I realize how soon it, too, will be “background.”
It’s been eight months since Hitchens died, but the sense of his loss is still palpable, and keen. They say that nobody’s irreplaceable, but he’s as close as it comes.
Here are some photos from Slate‘s slideshow; there are eight of them.
This photo is unspeakably sad:
UPDATE: Reader “bonetired” called my attention to a column in today’s Telegraph by Carol Blue, Hitchens’s wife for 22 years: “Christopher Hitchens: an Impossible act to follow.” It’s the most detailed account yet of how he faced death, and confirms again the bravery with which he faced insuperable odds. It will also make you tear up.
Here’s one anecdote, involving Hitchens’s chemotherapy, that will appeal to us science fans:
Not long before, back in Washington, on a bright and balmy Indian-summer afternoon, he excitedly summoned his family and visiting friends on an outing to see the “Origins of Man” exhibition at the Museum of Natural History, where I watched him sprint out of a cab and up the granite steps to throw up in a trash can before leading his charges through the galleries and exuberantly impressing us with the attainments of science and reason.
And there’s this:
I miss his perfect voice. I heard it day and night, night and day. I miss the first happy trills when he woke; the low octaves of “his morning voice” as he read me snippets from the newspaper that outraged or amused him; the delighted and irritated (mostly irritated) registers as I interrupted him while he read; the jazz-tone riffs of him “talking down the line” to a radio station from the kitchen phone as he cooked lunch; his chirping, high-note greeting when our daughter came home from school; and his last soothing, pianissimo chatterings on retiring late at night.
These are from Blue’s afterword to Mortality. I always wondered how the two got along, for Hitchens never wrote much about his family, and I’m sure he was fiercely attractive to other women. But it’s clear from this memoir, and the pictures in the Slate column, that they loved each other very much.