Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Christopher Hitchens's "Year of Living Dyingly"

Christopher Hitchens has written another poignant article (for Vanity Fair magazine) in which Hitchens updates his fans and admirers on his physical and mental condition after having enduring cancer treatments for the past several months.

Now that the cancer has taken direct aim at his vocal chords, Hitchens sees "writer's voice" much differently than before:
Deprivation of the ability to speak is more like an attack of impotence, or the amputation of part of the personality. To a great degree, in public and private, I “was” my voice. All the rituals and etiquette of conversation, from clearing the throat in preparation for the telling of an extremely long and taxing joke to (in younger days) trying to make my proposals more persuasive as I sank the tone by a strategic octave of shame, were innate and essential to me. I have never been able to sing, but I could once recite poetry and quote prose and was sometimes even asked to do so.
My chief consolation in this year of living dyingly has been the presence of friends. I can’t eat or drink for pleasure anymore, so when they offer to come it’s only for the blessed chance to talk. Some of these comrades can easily fill a hall with paying customers avid to hear them: they are talkers with whom it’s a privilege just to keep up. Now at least I can do the listening for free.

Please click over to the article at the Vanity Fair website. Christopher Hitchens has definitely not lost his writer's voice - as you will see from the way he expresses himself in this two-page piece.  But for a man who has been such an effective debater for his entire life, one can imagine the devastating impact the imminent loss of his voice must be having on him.  Hitchens uses exactly the right words (impotence and amputation) to describe the impact of something like this on a man like him, proving how powerful his writer's voice still is.

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