by Tim Regan September 22, 2016 at 4:30 pm 0

National Book Festival 2016Each year, the National Book Festival brings hundreds of authors and thousands of literature lovers to the Walter E. Washington Convention Center (801 Mt Vernon Place NW) for a free celebration of books.

Organizers are scheduled to throw open the doors to this year’s event Saturday at 8:30 a.m. From 9 a.m. until 10 p.m., attendees are free to wander the convention center in search of fun activities and booths manned by their favorite authors.

Author Stephen King, writer and former basketball star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and famed Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward are just some of the celebrity guests that will attend this year’s event.

Not sure what you should do and see this year? Here are a few highlights:

  • Documentary filmmaker Ken Burns will be on hand to sign autographs and talk about his new book for kids, “Grover Cleveland, Again! A Treasury of American Presidents.”
  • Kate Beaton, the creative force behind “Hark! A Vagrant!” will promote her children’s book, “King Baby.”
  • There will be a poetry slam for teens that will “will include some of the nation’s top youth slam groups.”
  • Newt Gingrich writes fiction. He’ll attend the festival to promote his newest story, “”Duplicity” (Center Street),” a thriller set in the District.
  • Rep. John Lewis is slated to promote the third volume in his graphic novel trilogy, “March.”
  • Two words: Diane Rehm.
  • Joyce Carol Oates, author of more than 40 stories, plays, novellas and works of poetry, won’t be there to promote her Twitter account, but she will attend the festival to talk about two of her latest books.
  • Frequent NPR guest and pop-science writer Mary Roach is scheduled to speak about her latest book, “Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War.”

Of course, these are just a few more than 120 appearances and signings planned. Attendees can formulate their game plan by checking out the festival’s map or downloading its app.

Learn more about the festival in the press release below:

(more…)

by Tim Regan April 20, 2016 at 4:45 pm 0

WorldBookDay 2015, photo via World Book DayMembers of the local Catalan community will help make Dupont Circle park a haven for book lovers this weekend.

Nonprofit Casal Català will help the District celebrate Catalan book and rose holiday of Sant Jordi, or World Book Day as it’s also known across the globe, in the park that surrounds Dupont Circle on Saturday at 11 a.m.

(more…)

by Tim Regan November 23, 2015 at 1:30 pm 0

A new bookstore with a laid-back vibe and tens of thousands of new and used books to buy is coming soon to Georgia Avenue.

Walls of Books, a store set to open at 3325 Georgia Ave. NW on Dec. 12, will include a literal wall of 30,000 books in English and Spanish, said owner Pablo Sierra.

Sierra, who lives in Brightwood, said he hopes the new bookstore will become a hangout for the neighborhood.

“People like bookstores,” Sierra said. “This is where I wanted to open up. I like this community and I wanted to provide something to it.”

Sierra said the 2,400 square foot space will include book shelves alongside space for couches and chairs to read.

“It’s a great big space. It’s wide-open,” Sierra said. “It’ll be a pretty chill environment. I want this to be a place where people can sit down.”

Sierra said most books will cost between $5 and $10. In addition to selling books, the forthcoming store will also buy them from residents. And Sierra added that he’ll also sling lively conversation, free of charge.

“We’re really excited to be part of the community,” Sierra said. “I love books. I love reading. … Reading is great, but reading as a community is better.”

Photo courtesy of Pablo Sierra

by Tim Regan July 23, 2015 at 12:30 pm 0

photoCanden Schwantes ArciniegaA local author and historian will prove tonight that heroes don’t deserve all the credit.

Canden Schwantes Arciniega, author of Wicked Georgetown and Wild Women of Washington, D.C., will talk about notorious figures in D.C. history at the Mt. Pleasant Library (3160 16th Street NW) at 7 p.m.

Arciniega, a volunteer docent and researcher for the D.C. Historical Society and Kiplinger Library, has spent years exploring the city and learning about its infamous individuals.

Copies of Arciniega’s books will be available for purchase and signing at the event.

Photo via Canden Schwantes Arciniega

by Daniel Levitt July 13, 2015 at 2:30 pm 0

Go Set A Watchman

Dupont residents will soon be able to get their hands on the new Harper Lee novel.

“Go Set a Watchman,” Lee’s hotly anticipated new novel, will be officially released at midnight at Kramerbooks (1517 Connecticut Ave NW).

The novel can only be purchased in the store and costs $27.99.

Though Kramerbooks hasn’t planned a special event around the release, an employee said today by phone that eager readers may still line up out the door for a copy later tonight.

Kramerbooks is open until 1 a.m. on weekdays and until 4 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

Photo via Twitter.com/Kramerbooks

by Tim Regan June 16, 2015 at 10:15 am 0


(Updated 1:30 p.m.) People taking their lunch break on the lawn in Dupont Circle earlier today could have thought for a moment that they’d traveled through time.

That’s because Dupont Festival, in partnership with the Embassy of Ireland, staged a combination Bloomsday and Yeats Day celebration packed with people in costumes from the early 1900s, storytellers and period musicians today from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m.

Bloomsday — and similar holiday Yeats Day — were created to commemorate Irish literary legends James Joyce and William Butler Yeats.

The goal of today’s event, says Dupont Festival co-founder Aaron DeNu, was to recreate the atmosphere of 19th century Dublin, as is traditionally done on Bloomsday.

“[The Irish Embassy] has an incredible group of people that are going to do readings of Ulysses and musical performance today,” DeNu said. “They have some people that are going to dress up in 1900s traditional dress. It should be pretty fun.”

The event was free, and coincided with a vintage bike rally organized by BicycleSPACE.

by Borderstan.com June 7, 2013 at 2:00 pm 0

From Mathew Harkins. Email him at mharkins[AT]borderstan.com.

"Savage"

“American Savage. “(Courtesy)

We’re not trying to become your one-stop weekend planning website but we can’t help noting that in the midst of all the Pride and other various activities this weekend, Dan Savage will be at the P.O.V. rooftop at W Washington DC Hotel (515 15th Street NW) on June 9 signing copies of his newest book, American Savage.

From 6 to 9 pm, you’ll be able to take in the spectacular view from the P.O.V. rooftop and enjoy the Bliss Spa massage station while having a cocktail and getting your book signed. On top of all that, you can enter to win a Bliss “Pride and Joy” package, which includes: a rapid rub massage, a “manly-cure” or hot cream manicure, an oxygen blast facial, and a basic brief “he-wax” or basic bikini wax.

Savage Love

Dan Savage is best known for writing the internationally syndicated column, “Savage Love,” which deals primarily in relationship and sex advice. He is a frequent guest on media talk shows, has written a number of books, and among many other things, was the co-founder of the It Gets Better Project along with his husband, Terry Miller.

Books will be available for purchase at the event. If you’d like to attend, send your RSVP to: savage[AT]brandlinkdcrsvp.com

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by Borderstan.com May 10, 2013 at 2:00 pm 0

From Zak M. Salih Email him at zak[AT]borderstan.com.

"Tenth of December"

Tenth of December by George Sounders. (Courtesy Ramdom House)

To be honest, the stories in George Saunders’ Tenth of December are probably a lot more sci-fi than they let on at first glance. Several of them seem to take place in near-distant futures where technology runs rampant, sapping our humanity, our free will and our ability to express genuine emotions.

In “Escape from Spiderhead,” a penal colony is home to bizarre scientific experiments in which, with the flip of a dial, a prisoner can spout poetry, feel intense sexual desire and even want to inflict harm on others.

In one of Saunders’ other haunting pieces, “The Semplica Girl Diaries,” we follow along in the diary of a middle-aged family man who engages in psychological class warfare with his more well-off neighbors.

But what’s more terrifying than the economic disparity the narrator feels: the world he lives in, one in which immigrants from third-world countries elect to become veritable lawn ornaments in an effort to earn and send money back to their families (an idea that’s echoed in another story, “Puppy,” where a child is literally chained outside to a tree).

Sounds farfetched? It is, but the strangeness is tempered by the normalcy with which these otherworldly situations are treated; just another facet of consumerist American society. In fact, it’s the class element to this collection (whose narrators who are all underdogs of a sort) that comes to mean more than the sci-fi aspects of Tenth of December.

And when both themes come together, as they do in “My Chivalric Fiasco” (where an actor at a Renaissance fair takes a drug that makes him think and act like the heroic knight he only pretends to be), the result is proof of how Saunders can make the fanciful believable and the outlandish all too human.

Come to Tenth of December for the flights of fancy and strange twists of fate. Stay for the frightening commentary on how we live and feel in an increasingly technological, fractured world.

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by Borderstan.com January 15, 2013 at 12:00 pm 0

From Zak M. Salih Email him at zak[AT]borderstan.com.

Chances are if you’re a reader, the holidays have made you the proud owner of a bookstore gift card or excess gift cash just waiting to be spent on books. And you could just go out now and buy whatever’s currently on the shelves. Or you could take a look at some of the promising books slated for publication in the coming months.

There’s a lot, for sure. But these particular selections promise to be edgy, engaging, offbeat, insightful…you get the point. One unique and relatively short read for each month. That should be enough to make a few more months of cold seem like not such a bad idea at all.

Saudners_coverTenth of December

by George Saunders (out now):

There are two kinds of people in this world: those who love David Foster Wallace and those who don’t. Readers who belong to the former camp have probably heard of George Saunders, whose stories read like a calmer version of Wallace’s. This latest collection from Saunders features stories on everything from bizarre pharmacological experiments and child abduction to post-war trauma and the final moments of a cancer patient. Uplifting stuff, no doubt. But with Saunders at the wheel, they’re sure to make for fascinating journeys.

Russell_coverVampires in the Lemon Grove

by Karen Russell (February 12):

Fresh off her debut novel, Swamplandia! (one of three finalists for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize that failed to crown a winner), Karen Russell returns with her second collection of humid southern gothic tales that combine great storytelling with imaginative new takes on night-bumping things. Human silkworms, savaged scarecrows, magical tattoos, lovey-dovey bloodsuckers in the titular story’s lemon grove; Halloween’s coming pretty early this year.

Carson_coverRed Doc <

by Anne Carson (March 5):

If you haven’t read Autobiography of Red, the poet Anne Carson’s intriguing mythological reimagining of the classical Greek monster, Geryon (who in Carson’s modernization falls in tempestuous love with that other Greek hero, Hercules), then do it. It’s a fascinating work of poetry and a necessary read for this sequel work — an experimental piece that continues Geryon’s adventures.

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by Borderstan.com December 18, 2012 at 3:00 pm 0

From Zak M. Salih Email him at zak[AT]borderstan.com.

"books"

Books: Always a perfect gift. (Luis Gomez Photos)

Let’s face it: Unless you’re some kind of genius with a background in organizational change management, you’re probably still not finished with your holiday shopping. But that’s okay — because no gift is as easy to find during a last-minute rush and as thoughtful and personal as a book.

But why shop and buy books online when you can still enjoy the sensory experience of wandering through an actual bookstore, combing the shelves, flipping through pages, finding hidden treasures, supporting local businesses? What better way to keep the hope alive that there’s still a place in the world for three-dimensional marketplaces for words?

Whether you’re looking for a copy of the latest award-winning bestseller, a paperback from a scholarly small press or even a dusty antique, you’ve got some options in and around our neighborhood.

Kramerbooks and Afterwords Cafe

Dupont Circle’s iconic independent bookstore, in business since 1976, has pretty much any type of book you’re looking for. Check out the table of paperback fiction right as you walk in for popular gift ideas for almost any reader.

  • ADDRESS: 1517 Connecticut Avenue NW
  • HOURS: 7:30 am to 1:30 am, Monday to Friday/open 24 hours Saturday and Sunday.
  • PHONE: 202-387-1400

RED ONION RECORDS & BOOKS
As the name suggests, they’re a specialist in vinyl records. But they’ve also got a snazzy collection of specialty books ranging from the alternative to the obscure in subjects including fiction, art, photography and (naturally) music.

ADDRESS: 1901 18th Street NW
HOURS: Noon to 7 pm, Monday to Saturday. Noon to 5 pm, Sunday.
PHONE: 202-986-2718

Busbboys and Poets 

It features a small bookshop that most of us wander through while waiting for our table. But take some time to actually shop and you’ll find great gift books on culture, politics, philosophy, activism and other topics that are good for the mind — and the world.

  • ADDRESS: 2021 14th Street NW
  • HOURS: 8:00 am to midnight, Monday to Thursday. 8 am to 2 am, Friday. 9 am to 2 am, Saturday. 9 am to midnight, Sunday.
  • PHONE: 202-387-7638

Books-A-Million

It’s a chain, yes. But if you’re on the hunt for something popular and you’re willing to shrug off the stigma of not shopping local, this bookstore is reliable for popular books that will probably satisfy someone with whose reading habits you’re unfamiliar.

  • ADDRESS: 11 Dupont Circle NW
  • HOURS: 9 am to 10 pm, Monday to Thursday. 8 am to midnight, Friday to Saturday. 9 am to 9 pm, Sunday.
  • PHONE: 202-319-1374

Second Story Books

Like any great used bookstore, this is the kind of place you should explore when you have no idea what to get someone (and, hopefully, nowhere to be in the next several hours). Chances are, as you comb through their packed shelves of used and rare books, you’ll find a treasure worth giving. And keeping.

  • ADDRESS: 2000 P Street NW
  • HOURS: 10 am to 10 pm.
  • PHONE: 202-659-8884

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by Borderstan.com December 4, 2012 at 11:00 am 1,096 0

From Zak M. Salih Email him at zak[AT]borderstan.com.

"McEwan"If there’s a rule book for professional spies, one of the first rules has to be “never fall in love with your mark.” Seems fairly obvious, no? Unfortunately, it’s a rule that junior MI5 operative Serena Frome instantly breaks. And the hard lessons she learns make up the bulk of Sweet Tooth, Ian McEwan’s surprisingly hopeful new novel about cultural espionage in 1970s London, when the Cold War was in one of its many endless lulls.

Serena, a reluctant student of mathematics with a passion for books, enters the world of England’s famed spy organization with the help of a lover (who may or may not be a double agent — one of the many obligatory twists and turns in any spy novel). Once there, she’s assigned to a project code named “Sweet Tooth,” the goal of which is to fund the work of artists who will hopefully churn out pro-democracy, anti-communist work to capture the hearts and minds of the people.

Her mark: a budding writer named Tom Haley, who bears some fairly obvious autobiographical and literary connections with McEwan himself (including a penchant for morbid stories involving obsessive lovers and violent mannequin sex). There’s an instant connection, and in a matter of pages the two are sleeping together, Tom’s writing his first novel (which goes on to win a major literary award), and Serena’s feeling the guilt of stringing her lover along in the interest of national security.

The heart of Sweet Tooth, oddly enough, is the novel’s final chapter, which casts a blinding new light on everything we’ve read before. If you haven’t been paying attention to the novel’s subtle agenda, it hits you like a sucker punch. Whether or not you find the ending a cop-out, a tacky use of postmodern trickery or a brilliant example of narrative manipulation depends, in a sense, on whose reading habits you identify with: Serena’s love of straightforward novels about marriage or Tom’s devotion to darker, more manipulative tales.

What was originally a novel about spying eventually transforms into a novel about something equally secretive: the act of writing. McEwan pulled a similar stunt at the end of his masterful novel, Atonement; it worked better there. But while Sweet Tooth certainly has its share of deception and emotional manipulation, the novel is tenderer than anything McEwan’s written before.

In its own strange way, Sweet Tooth is the author’s first novel with a truly happy ending. And for that alone, it’s worth reading.

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by Borderstan.com November 20, 2012 at 11:00 am 1,067 0

From Zak M. Salih Email him at zak[AT]borderstan.com.

"rushdie"By now, the story has taken on the air of legend: On Feb. 14, 1989, a day when most of the Western world was professing its Hallmark love for one another, Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini issued a religious decree calling for the death of author Salman Rushdie on the charges of blasphemy against Islam in his novel, The Satanic Verses.

Of course, any cursory glance at the social pages and you’re likely to find mention (or pictures) of Rushdie at various parties and premieres, so we know that this story ultimately ends well. But what exactly happened during that decade-long period of hiding from fanatical assassins and living under the (surprisingly oppressive) shadow of government protection?

Finally, we have the story in Rushdie’s own words. Well, sort of. His long-awaited memoir, Joseph Anton (titled after the code name Rushdie lived under during the fatwa years) is actually told in the third person, so that Rushdie himself becomes a character enmeshed in a tale of political intrigue and espionage, back-room deliberations and secret meetings, and assassinations both thwarted and unfortunately successful.

This decision to avoid the first-person is an interesting one. It helps dodge the pitfall of self-importance that plagues (but is an essential part of) so many memoirs. Unfortunately, it raises the stakes on having to make the “character” of Salman Rushdie more engaging and believable. It’s a curious disconnect between what we expect of memoirs and what we expect of narrative fiction.

But to be asked to follow “Salman Rushdie” instead of Salman Rushdie for 600-plus pages is a bit of a chore–even when he takes care to reveal his own flaws and even given the importance of what’s at stake here (freedom of expression, the battle against religious extremism, the important role of literature in society).

Rushdie has been known to write massive epics (Midnight’s Children, The Moor’s Last Sigh, The Ground Beneath Her Feet), but those works have always carried themselves on a whirlwind of storytelling magic and linguistic acrobatics. All too often, though, Joseph Anton feels like nothing more than a laundry list of events; a police procedural in the worst sense. “First, this happened to me. Then, this happened to me. Then this. And this.” We get the skeleton of a complex story, but none of the organs, muscles and tissues to transform it into a living, breathing tale.

And then there’s the epic laundry list of famous faces Rushdie meets during his years drumming up support for his cause and, eventually, reclaiming his life: Susan Sontag, Bono, Warren Beatty, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Steve Martin, Madonna. These and other names drop into Joseph Anton with all the subtlety of a depth charge, forming a veritable who’s who of late 20th century pop culture.

To be fair, there are some moments in the tedium worth savoring: Rushdie’s early life and birth as a writer; the insights into how he prepared for and wrote his early masterpieces (including the controversial novel that destroyed his everyday life); the call to arms from writers from around the world to stand up for free speech; that final moment when Rushdie steps back into the real world as himself and hails a cab without the suffocating presence of armed security forces.

But as a lifelong fan of Salman Rushdie and a firm believer in the magic of his storytelling powers, I found Joseph Anton to be a disappointment. As a record of events from this period in Rushdie’s life (which he considers the first stirring of the larger geopolitical war between Islam and the West that truly announced its presence on 9/11), the memoir does an adequate job. But if you’re looking for an example of what makes Rushdie so brilliant in the first place, you’re better served going back to his earlier works.

That’s what I’m doing. And I’m rediscovering just how great a writer he can be–and just how lucky we all are that he’s still around to tell stories.

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by Borderstan.com November 6, 2012 at 10:00 am 0

From Zak M. Salih Email him at zak[AT]borderstan.com.

"Chabon"Some writers have a style so alive that they make writing seem like the easiest, most enjoyable profession in the world. It’s a false impression, to be sure; nevertheless, these authors help keep alive the idea that reading books remains a valuable (and vibrant) form of entertainment.

Michael Chabon–best known for his dazzling magnum opus about the golden age of comic books, “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay”–definitely falls into this hallowed pantheon. His fiction, even when it’s not particularly memorable (case in point: the serialized novel “The Gentlemen of the Road”), bursts with a shameless joy of telling a good story.

Chabon’s latest novel, “Telegraph Avenue,” is both. It’s written with lengthy sentences packed with clauses and sub clauses — so yes, you actually have to pay attention while reading. But by giving yourself over to this (I shudder to use the description) “traditional” style of writing, you’ll come across breathtaking passages and pages that pulse with life.

Adapted from a failed plan for a Chabon-created television show, the novel concerns the possible last days of a used record store in Oakland, California in 2004. Brokeland Records, managed by longtime friends Archie Stallings and Nat Jaffe, is under threat of extinction due to the impending construction of a massive megastore spearheaded by a former NFL wunderkind named Gibson Goode (whom Chabon deliciously paints as a smooth-talking “villain” straight out of a Bond story, complete with his own zeppelin).

At the same time, their respective spouses, Gwen and Aviva, find their midwifery practice under attack after a troubled birth leads to the possibility of a lawsuit. The third pairing involves Nat’s gay son, Julie (from Julius) and his adventures in adolescence with Titus who, get this, is actually Archie’s long-lost son.

The drama comes from the way these characters collide with one another; a drama rooted in the dilemma of urban development, the comforting stasis of nostalgia, race relations between black and white, and the environs of Oakland and Berkeley. Chabon paints the area as a whirlwind of races, ethnicities, tastes and lifestyles–the American melting pot in action. Then there are the heavy pop cultural references; so heavy at times that they threaten to bury the story. “Telegraph Avenue” is a veritable grab bag of cultural homages, hat tips, high fives and winks to everything from 70s funk and blaxsploitation films to Bruce Lee, “Star Wars”, and Quentin Tarantino.

It may come with a conclusion that feels rushed compared to the sprawl of the rest of the novel (numerous loose ends are simply tied up through dialogue) and a cringe-worthy cameo by then-senatorial candidate Barack Obama (a minor gripe, to be sure).

But one thing is for sure: “Telegraph Avenue” is damn fun to read.

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by Borderstan.com October 23, 2012 at 2:00 pm 0

From Zak M. Salih Email him at zak[AT]borderstan.com.

"Diaz"

This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz.

The nine stories in Junot Diaz’s new collection, This Is How You Lose Her, are compulsively readable. Which is probably not surprising considering the main character in most of them is a compulsive cheater whose casual attitude toward sex with women is frequently at odds with those of his more monogamy-minded girlfriends.

“I’m not a bad guy,” Yunior, our Dominican Don Juan, intones in the opening lines of the first story. If the name sounds familiar, it’s because is it. Yunior was a character in Diaz’s first novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao–an equally fast-paced, pop-culture infused portrait of Dominican-American life that you should probably pick up now if you haven’t read it. In these stories, Yunior now takes center stage, recounting his adventures and misadventures in love (as well as his family life) and often employing the second-person perspective to literally put you in his shoes.

It’s this particular style, packed with Dominican slang and comic book references, that takes your standard boy-meets-girl-boy-loses-girl narrative and transforms it into something fresh. Stories like “The Sun, the Moon, the Stars” (in which Yunior uses a beach trip as a last-ditch effort to save a relationship), the brief “Alma” (named after the girl who dumps the cheating Yunior with a string of foul language), and “Miss Lora” (detailing Yunior’s fling with an older neighbor) are three powerful examples of Diaz’s masterful tone and dialogue at work.

But if you only had to pick two stories to read before flipping on to something else (the only drawback to short story collections being the ease with which they can be put aside–and sometimes forgotten), they should be “The Pura Principle” and the collection’s final story, “The Cheater’s Guide to Love.” In the former, the focus is on Yunior’s brother, Rafa, who’s dying of cancer and throwing himself into a quick marriage with a woman despised by his mother. The later is a year-by-year account of Yunior’s life after the most cataclysmic breakup in all of these stories. It’s a painful and honest account:

You stop sleeping, and some night when you’re drunk and alone you have a wacky impulse to open the window of your fifth-floor apartment and leap down to the street. If it wasn’t for a couple of things you probably would have done it, too. But (a) you ain’t the killing-yourself type; (b) your boy Elvis keeps a strong eye on you–he’s over all the time, stands by the window as if he knows what you’re thinking. And (c) you have this ridiculous hope that maybe one day she will forgive you.

She doesn’t.

Is there any hope for Yunior? How do compulsive cheaters find some sort of absolution? There are no solid answers here. Yunior may not be a villain — but he’s certainly got his fair share of troubles. And the record of his messy love life makes for some great reading.

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by Borderstan.com October 9, 2012 at 11:00 am 0

From Zak M. Salih. Email him at zak[AT]borderstan.com.

"Hitchens"In October 2010, Christopher Hitchens first became physically aware of the esophageal cancer from which he would die a little over a year later. Suffering from severe chest pains the morning before another day on the tour circuit for his memoir, Hitch-22, Hitchens was attended to by emergency paramedics. Writing about the episode in retrospect, he described the moment as “a very gentle and firm deportation, taking me from the country of the well across the stark frontier that marks off the land of malady.”

His time in this terrible terrain (“Tumortown” as he calls it) is captured in Mortality, the journalist and public intellectual’s posthumous collection of Vanity Fair pieces detailing his “year of living dyingly.” Here, we get Hitchens on everything from how to talk to cancer patients (he recounts a cringe-worthy conversation at a book signing between him and a “sympathizer”) and dealing with prayer and alternative medicine (both, unsurprisingly, he views as bunk) to enduring chemotherapy treatments and finding support in two of the things that matter to him most: friendships and literature.

These essays don’t shy away from the author’s emotional highs and lows (despite his clear headedness, Hitchens is forthcoming about suffering the same bouts of melancholy one would expect of anyone diagnosed with terminal cancer). Yet even as a premature death seems more and more likely, Hitchens never backs down from the hard opinions and sometimes unsavory views that made him beloved of his readers and feared by his critics. For example, he describes Randy Pausch’s “The Last Lecture” (an uplifting talk the dying professor gave about following your dreams that turned into a viral video) as “so sugary that you may need an insulin shot to withstand it.”

Hitchens was someone for whom writing was, as he himself puts it, not just a living but a life itself. And more than anything else, it’s Hitchens’ voice that makes even the darkest of this collection’s essays worth reading and — perhaps surprising to some — actually inspiring in a way that feels genuine. There’s no softening or sugar coating of the fear of death here. It’s just treated as something that happens. As Hitchens writes at one point, “I don’t have a body, I am a body.”

But he’s also his words as well. And those words, as captured in Mortality (to say nothing of his tract on atheism, god is not Great, or his massive collection of essays, Arguably), are definitely ones worth reading and pondering.

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