Friday, August 20, 2010

Hitchens' Timing

The timing of Christopher Hitchens’ esophageal cancer is quite striking. Having only received Hitch-22 in the mail a few days ago and being already committed to Midnight’s Children, I’ve only read the memoir’s “Prologue With Premonitions.” Yet just this introduction, which I read as Hitchens undergoes chemotherapy, takes the breath away. Framed around a National Portrait Gallery brochure’s typo describing him as “the late Christopher Hitchens,” its meditations on impending death seem to presage the cancer that brought an end to the subsequent book tour. These sentences in particular gain in urgency:

When I first formed the idea of writing some memoirs, I had the customary reservations about the whole conception being perhaps “too soon.” Nothing dissolves this fusion of false modesty and natural reticence more swiftly than the blunt realization that the project could become, at any moment, ruled out of the question as having been undertaken too “late.”

For Hitchens, “too late” would have been a matter of months, not years. I am sure he would dispute the notion of his cancer’s timing being providential, so instead let us be happy for his prudence.

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