Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Should one pray for Hitch? - continued

Christopher Hitchens' own answer to the question is here, along with much other interesting stuff. In Hitch's words,

Well look, I mean, I think that prayer and holy water, and things like that are all fine. They don’t do any good, but they don’t necessarily do any harm. It’s touching to be thought of in that way. It makes up for those who tell me that I’ve got my just desserts... I have to say there’s some extremely nice people, including people known to you [interviewer Hugh Hewitt], have said that I’m in their prayers, and I can only say that I’m touched by the thought.

Yesterday I received my copy of his new memoirs, Hitch-22. The immediately striking thing is that he has chosen to be photographed smoking a cigarette for its cover. This was before the cancer diagnosis, and he does like to be considered a contrarian, but if he were superstitious I wonder whether he would now think of it as tempting fate. Hitchens is also known for his prodiguous consumption of alcohol (I am surprised that the book cover does not portray him holding a glass of Scotch); and smoking and drinking are both significant risk factors for oesophageal cancer, especially in combination in large quantities.

If I were religious, I'd pray for him. As it is, I (like millions of other strangers) offer him my best wishes: I hope that he recovers fully and, meanwhile and afterwards, suppresses his contrarian urges sufficiently to obey his doctors when they ask him to stop poisoning his body in this way.

As for the material between the covers of his book: I have only read as far as the beginning of the third chapter (on his father). The "prologue with premonitions" is not his most memorable piece of writing, but that is only because his standards are so high. It is, however, sprinkled (as one would expect) with interesting anecdotes and thoughts. His portrait, in the next chapter, of his mother Yvonne -- her life, her death, his relationship with her, and his thoughts on her after she died -- is stunning and harrowing: if the book maintains that sort of intensity, it would be a life-altering experience for any reader, I would think. I have a large and growing pile of books that are only partially read, but despite the considerable bulk of this book, I will not be surprised if I finish it sooner than many other recent purchases.


Space Bar said...

Tell me what you think of the book! I was supposed to review it but it got hijacked by someone else just as it was being sent to me.

Rahul Siddharthan said...

SB - will update by and by. I have read the chapter on his father, which is a more detached but nonetheless moving portrait. (Moving because both he and his father clearly wanted to be closer to each other than they actually were.) Based on reviews and online snippets, I'd say it would be worth your while to buy even if you don't get a review copy.