Hello Bookworms, long time no book review…is this really a book blog? The answer is yes; we merely mix it up around here. This post reviews a stunning novel, quite literally the definition of thought-proving, in my humble opinion. Morality, although it may seem grim and perhaps even unnecessary, why read a story in which you know the ending? Is there even anything to get out of this book? Yes, there is. Trust me on this one.
Mortality by Christopher Hitchens
Genre: Non-fiction, Philosophy, Religion, Death
Publisher: September 4th, 2012 by Twelve
Length: Hardcover, 104 pages
On June 8, 2010, while on a book tour for his bestselling 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 eighteen 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 account of his affliction, he 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 mortality. (Goodreads)
I would admit, maybe it’s my experience only, but I found cancer, and his battle with it, although it was what took his life, not to be a primary focus. For readers contemplating reading it, if it’s solely a depressing account of someone’s battle with cancer, something we are all too accustomed to, keep that in mind.
This book!! More than this book in specific, I adore books from this genre that explore life after death, our humanity, mortality and simply(or not so simply), what it means to be human. It may sound shocking, but I find these books easy to comprehend and read. Throughout the past two years, especially lately, I’ve evolved as a reader regarding texts and messages I search for. First, of course, there is nothing wrong with enjoying books you’ve always loved; I still reread comfort books from my childhood or high school, but rather than deriving pleasure from YA fantasy novels and literary fiction, I’m now drawn to books that are classified as non-fiction and memoirs. I am embracing this shift, as it’s what makes me happy now, but I know that I will continue to gravitate towards different genres, authors and writing styles, so I always try to get the most out of each “phase” as possible.
Now, to finally get to my thoughts, if you couldn’t tell, I tend to go off track quite a bit. Books like Mortality are made for me. I find the messages so easily digestible and am never caught up in the general sadness or the tragedy surrounding the background.
Although I don’t typically annotate, I bookmark quotes that I find to be unique when I come across them, and here are a few I found to be thought-provoking. Fun Fact: I’ve kept ALL, and I mean all…of my books in impeccable condition since I was a little reader, and recently I’ve allowed myself to annotate my non-fictions. I find I can get “more” out of it by simply underlining quotes, and when I say it was a painful start. I almost couldn’t do it.
The most satisfying compliment a reader can pay is to tell me that he or she feels personally addressed. Think of your own favorite authors and see if that isn’t precisely one of the things that engages you, often at first without your noticing it.Christopher Hitchens
I found this quote so fascinating, as it was a perspective I hadn’t thought of before. When I read this, I thought back to my favourite novels, authors I adore, and found that they shared a common trait: I would either be fully immersed in the book from the first page or found myself relating and feeling engaged.
To the dumb question “Why me?” the cosmos barely bothers to return the reply: why not?Christopher Hitchens
This is easily one of my favourite quotes, just because it’s so….well put. With quite a casual language, Christopher poses a question I can’t seem to answer either.
Until you have done something for humanity,” wrote the great American educator Horace Mann, “you should be ashamed to die.”Christopher Hitchens
What a great quote; granted, it’s only quoted in the novel from another educator. Yet, this is a statement I constantly think about and grapple with coming to terms with. I struggle with feeling fulfilled and can often feel overwhelmed by how large this universe is, how minuscule we are, and how much I want to achieve. All these things seem to collide in my mind, and they are in constant conflict that I TRY….try to control so that I don’t lose control in return. Another mini-rant from me, of course, but as funny as it sounds, I want to change the world. It’s the same thing most of us can relate to when we think back to grade one and would answer the question of “what we wanted to be in the future” or “what we want to accomplish.” These grand statements about “changing the world” seem so big and complex, so I’m working on precisely figuring out what that signifies. I firmly believe there are so many incredible brains on this earth, although evil humans exist as well; by embracing who we are, there is nothing we cannot do(gross, I know, I can’t help it ! motivational speaker, over here).
One of my favourite aspects of this book is how unique it is. It’s a horrible position to be in, I wouldn’t wish sickness on ANYONE, but it’s remarkable to be able to read this piece of literature, knowing the author’s fate. It makes the writing so much more sacred and made me analyze almost every word multiple times.
Further, this book is quite intriguing because I can see how many readers can draw different conclusions from the novel. I understand why some find it meaningless or that the author said a whole bunch of…nothing? But that was quite honestly the beauty of it for me. Since our lines of thinking are so similar, it felt like an open-ended conversation with the author, and once I reached the bitter conclusion, it was a mutual goodbye. Although the author battled cancer, that isn’t necessarily the book’s thesis; instead, it is an underlying theme that bears the message.
Dying. Death. All bad words…or are they. We can all agree that illnesses and sicknesses take wonderful beings too soon, but the act of dying is inevitable. Yet, to some, including myself, no matter how many times I repeat it, it doesn’t seem real. The society we live in(the word society is so corny to me) actively denies death. It’s hidden, an unfortunate circumstance we seldom discuss. Grieving is done privately; it’s almost rude to infiltrate one’s life when one is going through that, and the mystery of death remains. A continuous cycle that I feel nobody can quite understand until it’s personally felt.
And although the author’s viewpoint on death was one of natural courage, he looked at death straight-on, with no fear, and seemed to accept his fate calmly until the end. That is not the case for all, and everyone’s feelings on the matter are valid. Fear isn’t necessarily something that should be dismissed or rationalized, and fear can be pretty productive. I fear death, not because of the act of dying, but because I value life. I appreciate this beautiful earth so much that it would be a shame for my journey to end early. As a reader, this short novel was straightforward, despite the subject matter that seemed intimidating initially.
Overall, this novel felt quite like an open-ended productive conversation to me. I don’t necessarily agree with all of Hitchen’s views, but I can respect them. I admire those who can eloquently and intelligently communicate their opinions, and he is almost the epitome of that person. To add, I believe I found this book so impactful because I let Hitchen’s words build upon my own and was able to take in some of his thoughts objectively but let go of others.
Let’s put aside literary fiction; this is genuinely my taste in non-fiction. Although there were some parts I could label as “boring”(a better word would be tedious), I wouldn’t say they were unnecessary. This is such a personal novel that it isn’t for judging or even rating; I read it more to put myself in the authors’ shoes(as much as possible) and appreciate the novel for what it is. It’s an incredibly unique read, and GOD, I adored it. I am all for getting the most out of this life as possible, and what a better novel to appreciate and love than an intelligent man, who didn’t “deserve” this ending, but it’s what fate dealt with nevertheless. So this review, to be frank, might not make sense; it’s something I would scribble down in my journal immediately after reading and is more of a general brain dump than a review, but enjoy!
About the Author
Christopher Eric Hitchens was an English-born American author, journalist, and literary critic. He was a contributor to Vanity Fair, The Atlantic, World Affairs, The Nation, Slate, Free Inquiry and a variety of other media outlets. Hitchens was also a political observer, whose best-selling books — the most famous being God Is Not Great — made him a staple of talk shows and lecture circuits. He was also a media fellow at the Hoover Institution.
Hitchens was a polemicist and intellectual. While he was once identified with the Anglo-American radical political left, near the end of his life he embraced some arguably right-wing causes, most notably the Iraq War. Formerly a Trotskyist and a fixture in the left wing publications of both the United Kingdom and United States, Hitchens departed from the grassroots of the political left in 1989 after what he called the “tepid reaction” of the European left following Ayatollah Khomeini’s issue of a fatwa calling for the murder of Salman Rushdie, but he stated on the Charlie Rose show aired August 2007 that he remained a “Democratic Socialist.” (GoodReads)
You made it! I appreciate you if you read this all the way through; please let me know your thoughts; have you read this one yet? Let’s chat!
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