Christopher Hitchens is not complaining. Or rather, he is, but he doesn’t want your sympathy. Or maybe he does, but for heaven’s sake don’t pity the man! He admits he’s had a good run, and since his diagnosis with esophageal cancer in 2007 he’s been trying, with moderate success, to philosophically take the bad with the good. There’s always something, though; some loss that’s especially hard, or some regret that cuts painfully deep. In his case, it’s his voice. He can’t rely on it anymore. Sometimes he can’t make it sound at all, much less roll out in the mighty, sinewy syllables it could so easily command in years past.

Very few could wield the clever rejoinder, the subtle twist of a phrase, the elegant slash that disarmed an opponent like Hitchens could. I’ve heard debates on atheism vs. faith that he lost on substance but won, hands down, on style. He cut himself out of every tight place and brilliantly scored with the deadly bon mot— touche! And bravo! from the young bucks in the peanut gallery. Not because they wanted their atheism vindicated by him; they wanted to be him, the epitome of cool: the height, the hair, the ready wit, the keen vocabulary, and above all the casually mastered, irresistibly accented voice.

Continue Reading on