Letting go of Hitch. Then picking him up anew.

I'm seldom shocked by the death of someone known to be terminally ill. And Christopher Hitchens was famously sick. His most-recent writing for "Vanity Fair" delved into his diagnosis of esophogeal cancer and the contemplation that followed. As serendipity would have it, I just read his latest article therein yesterday afternoon. I was surprised by the sense of optimism I took from this last piece. He'd survived the radiation and hadn't lost those things he feared being without most - his voice and the ability to type. Coupled with his famously unrepentant atheism, Hitchens provided a window through which to observe something almost too intimate. Cancer and the treatment currently used to combat the disease are twin demons that consumed and weakened him. My first read of the news of his death yesterday came in the form of a text message from a friend and fellow fan. Since then the reflections have come from all over the map, but with the same general angle. Hitchens lived hard, wrote voluminously, defied convention and walked the thin highwire required to be consistently original. My recent hunger for essay collections has proved rewarding (John Jeremiah Sullivan's Pulphead and Jonathan Lethem's The Ecstasy of Influence are both fantastic and highly recommended). Now I've decided to dive headlong into the latest mass of essays from The Hitch (Arguably, which landed on so many people's "best of the 2011" lists). I'm sheepishly pleased to name drop that Christopher Hitchens and I share the same literary agency. I'm sad to think that I'll never meet him, even though I realize how presumptuous it sounds to think that might have happened. Still, I'm wholly saddened by his passing. Because I truly admired him as a writer who so totally slashed his way through the wilds of this age we live in. The Hitch will absolutely be missed.