We've reached my last book/read of 2012... and it seems kind of appropriate that it is Mortality by Christopher Hitchens. The End, indeed.
While I had been familiar with Hitchens over the years, I never had a strong desire to read any of his books (mostly non-fiction essays). The reasons I read this one were kind of silly: first, I was closing in on 14,000 pages read for 2012, so with just a few days left in the year a 120-page book seemed like a good idea... and quite by accident, I had ended up reading Amazon's Top 10 Books of the Year (2012), with the exception of this one... so I thought it would be pretty cool to finish that list. And I am glad I did, as it was quite an interesting (and quick) read.
If you are not familiar with Hitchens, he is (spoiler alert: was) one of the world's most famous atheists. And let's face it, atheists can be party-poopers a good deal of the time. Their stance to the majority of the world population is pretty much an adult version of there is no Santa Claus," though the implications are more far-reaching than who mysteriously placed gifts under the tree. We're talking big stuff like eternity, salvation, and faith.
I am not religious myself and certainly lean atheist/agnostic, but despite that I have always found there to be an unsavory and
uncomfortable quality when discussing atheism. It's a tight-rope walk where it is nearly impossible not to sound mocking or elitist or not end up offending the other party.
But this final book from Hitchens held appeal, how does a person with no religious beliefs, no faith handle a terminal illness? The question may be silly, or maybe it's the obvious answer that is: just like anyone else. No one wants to die, especially slowly and painfully (Hitchens had esophageal cancer). Hitchens still exhibits faith and hope, but in the medical and scientific fields and love of his family and friends sees him through. Yes, atheists are real people too! Though this is still a quite harsh and real account of being "battled by cancer"(Hitchens phrasing) made all the more brutal without what almost seems like the luxury of a belief in an afterlife and/or the power of prayer.
Hitchens has no last minute epiphany and, is if anything is defiant, in taking down the likes of those who pray for him, but also believe his cancer was an act from God ... Randy Pausch's famous Last Lecture gets raked over the coals... and Hitchens flips the bird at the adage "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger."
It's refreshingly honest and unique perspective at death, elitist at times (but that is/was Hitchens) and certainly not a book for everyone.
And with that, we end another year of reading here at Whine & Cheese - the blog that has pretty much dumped both the Whine and Cheese in favor of being a celebration of reading and books. I'll get working on that year-in-review post and hopefully have it to you relatively soon! Again, warm wishes for 2013... and Happy Reading!