Waking up one morning

Lashings of extraordinary writing in Hitchens’s cancer piece in Vanity Fair. For one thing, there’s the opening, about waking up in a New York hotel room.

have more than once in my time woken up feeling like death. But nothing prepared me for the early morning last June when I came to consciousness feeling as if I were actually shackled to my own corpse. The whole cave of my chest and thorax seemed to have been hollowed out and then refilled with slow-drying cement.

That final (frightening) sentence is an homage to a parallel scene in Kingsley Amis’s Lucky Jim, about a much younger man waking up with a hangover. It’s a set-piece about what a hangover feels like, and it’s funny as hell. It and the Hitchens passage also have a whiff of Wodehouse – Hitchens is Bertie describing his sensations in some awkward spot.

He managed to get to the phone and summon the emergency services.

They arrived with great dispatch and behaved with immense courtesy and professionalism. I had the time to wonder why they needed so many boots and helmets and so much heavy backup equipment, but now that I view the scene in retrospect I see it 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. Within a few hours, having had to do quite a lot of emergency work on my heart and my lungs, the physicians at this sad border post had shown me a few other postcards from the interior and told me that my immediate next stop would have to be with an oncologist.

Beautiful writing. Do admit.

 I love the imagery of struggle. I sometimes wish I were suffering in a good cause, or risking my life for the good of others, instead of just being a gravely endangered patient. Allow me to inform you, though, that when you sit in a room with a set of other finalists, and kindly people bring a huge transparent bag of poison and plug it into your arm, and you either read or don’t read a book while the venom sack gradually empties itself into your system, the image of the ardent soldier or revolutionary is the very last one that will occur to you. You feel swamped with passivity and impotence: dissolving in powerlessness like a sugar lump in water.

Yes; just what I hate. It’s bad enough in airports and on planes.

If there were an Intelligent Designer, someone who writes that well would live to be ninety. But there isn’t.

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