In the Arena

The Opposite of Morbidity

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Christopher Hitchens is attacking his terminal illness with the same intellectual rigor he has applied to every profound moral problem and stray annoyance that life has tossed his way. It is an exhilarating spectacle. If, in his salad days, Hitchens would seem, at times, to go after icons like Mother Theresa for the sheer naughty pleasure of it, all that has been stripped away now. Every word he produces is essential, and cherished by his friends. (Christopher and I are friendly, but not quite friends.) Every word he produces in his agony gives great pleasure–and refreshment, a respite from the overpowering tide of inanity. The sheer, lacerating honesty, the gleeful romp through history, philosophy, literature and invective, is unmatched in contemporary letters. His mind flourishes as his body wastes; he reads better than ever. What a gift to the rest of us.

I’m sure he’d scoff if I called him courageous; writing and thinking, for Hitchens, is as necessary as breathing. I hope he doesn’t mind if I say that my admiration for him has slipped into hero-worship–a banality in which I happily wallow each time he produces a new feast of sentences.