Publisher’s note: These fragmentary jottings, published as the last chapter of Christopher Hitchens’ new book, Mortality, were left unfinished at the time of Hitchens’ death in December. Annotations by Slate editor David Plotz. 


"Remember, you too are mortal"—hit me at the top of my form and just as things were beginning to plateau. My two assets my pen and my voice—and it had to be the esophagus. All along, while burning the candle at both ends, I'd been "straying into the arena of the unwell" and now "a vulgar little tumor" was evident. This alien can't want anything; if it kills me it dies but it seems very single-minded and set in its purpose. No real irony here, though. Must take absolute care not to be self-pitying or self-centered.

In her afterword to Mortality, Hitchens' widow, Carol Blue, writes of how she misses "the unpublished Hitch: the countless notes he left for me in the entryway, on my pillow, the emails he would send while we sat in different rooms in our apartment." For writers less productive than Hitchens—that is, all of us—the idea of unpublished Hitch is inconceivable. He was everywhere—on TV when he wasn't giving a speech, his latest book either just published or about to be published, the author of pieces in Slate, Vanity Fair, and theAtlantic in the same week. How could anything have gone unpublished? How could there be any stories, any jokes, any insults, any perfect Wodehouse citations that were never silver-tongued out into the world? Yet despite writing as much as he did, he left some behind, either for friends and family, or, in this case, as notes.

The publisher calls these "fragmentary jottings." But even poisoned by chemo, even down 14 pounds, Hitch wrote with as much toughness, energy, and wit as ever.

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