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Christopher Hitchens Mortality Essayscorer

When Christopher Hitchens writes about waking up to discover himself in the "land of malady", there is an echo of one of his very few rivals as a modern essayist, Susan Sontag. "Everyone who is born holds dual citizenship, in the kingdom of the well and in the kingdom of the sick," Sontag wrote in Illness as Metaphor. "Although we all prefer to use only the good passport, sooner or later each of us is obliged, at least for a spell, to identify ourselves as citizens of that other place."

The difference between their respective spells in the kingdom of cancer is that Sontag, almost until the bitter end (in 2004), believed she would return. Her son, David Rieff, later wrote of how her refusal of the immanence of death led to a terrible, incredulous scream – "this means I'm going to die!" – when she was eventually told that all experimental treatments had failed.

In these final essays, Hitchens examines his own disbelief that writing – indistinguishable to him from living – is about to end. "Will I really not live to see my children married? To watch the World Trade Centre rise again? To read – if not indeed to write – the obituaries of elderly villains like Henry Kissinger and Joseph Ratzinger?" It's the wry trace of self-knowledge at the end of that rhetorical triad (the pleasure he might have taken in the fall of his enemies he must now grant to them) that breaks the spell.

Hitchens tried every treatment available to him, sought to keep writing, appearing in public, speaking for as long as was physically possible. But reading Mortality, it's clear he knew in his bones that the end was coming sooner, not later, and, more than just intellectually, experienced the irrational disbelief in death to be the illusion it was. Because he contracted cancer of the oesophagus, he was also cursed with the knowledge that his illness would inflict the most personal insult: taking his voice before it took the rest of him.

"Timing is everything," he writes (it feels somehow wrong to put this in the past tense). "The exquisite moment when one can break in and cap a story, or turn a line for a laugh, or ridicule an opponent. I lived for moments like that. What do I hope for? If not a cure, then a remission. And what do I want back? In the most beautiful apposition of two of the simplest words in our language: the freedom of speech."

Apart from the obvious sense of denouement, what makes his last seven essays so potent – concluding with a chapter of dying fragments – is their increasingly spare struggle towards the shattering of illusion. "I love the imagery of struggle," he declares, sardonically regretting that this one can't be in a larger cause. He dispatches the illusion that "whatever does not kill me makes me stronger" for the nonsense it is. He feels his "personality and identity dissolving as I contemplate dead hands and the loss of the transmission belts that connect me to writing and thinking".

He makes mordant play with the bloggers who posted remarks about how God was punishing his atheism by removing the voice with which he blasphemed. He dispenses with the fallacy that people courageously "battle" cancer. He considers the idea that it is battling him, then dismisses that as a pathetic fallacy. The real struggle in Mortality is not with mortality. Hitchens cleaves to the logical conclusion of his materialism. He hints, rather, at a fear of losing himself, of becoming an imbecile, someone who might, in terror and pain, say something foolish or (God forbid) religious near the end, to give his enemies satisfaction. The true struggle of his last writings is to remain himself, deep in the country of the ill, for as long as he can.

If you have ever delighted in Hitchens's talent for bringing quotes to new and vivid life, look at his use of Wilfred Owen to illustrate how the "aspiration" of moisture could trigger a flood of panic during his various pneumonias: "come gargling from the froth corrupted lungs/ obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud".

A regular note of admiration in the tributes that poured out from other writers at his death referred to his extraordinary memory for quotation and the resilience of his capacity to write at any time of the night – however much he had been drinking. Here he notes some of the tributes that came out after premature news of his death: "rumours of my LIFE have also been greatly exaggerated!" To be able to write while drinking was, perhaps, a sign of mental toughness; but to be able to write like this while dying stands as actual bravery.

It would not be right to suggest that these are among the finest essays that Hitchens produced. The duress under which they were written renders them sparer and less fluent than he was at his best. But they are his most honest.

For examples of Hitchens at his most stylish, savage, literate and brilliant, turn to Arguably. The philosopher John Gray, reviewing it last year for the New Statesman (the magazine where Hitchens's career began), observed that his preternatural sense of self-certainty sprang from an ideologically Trotskyist mindset that, for all its vaunted atheism, materialism and rationalism, was really a product of belief. That was not meant as a compliment. Hitchens would have taken it as an insult. But, without observing a contradiction, Gray also describes him as "one of the greatest living writers of English prose".

The only word of that which is certainly untrue is that Hitchens is now no longer living. In a restrained, dignified and moving afterword, his wife, Carol Blue, writes about perusing their library and rediscovering him everywhere in the stray notes he left. "Time after time," she ends, "Christopher has the last word."

Javier, a one-of-a-kind born leader is much more than just a likable character with odd quirks and funny hiccups. To declare he expects a great deal from his team is an underestimation of the soaring standards he anticipates on a daily basis from the agency’s charily-selected digital intelligence group.

With just a little bit of mental keenness, most people might be able to recall a witty message that made the Internet rounds a few years ago; a post describing “Creative People” as 1. easily bored 2. risk takers 3. color outside the lines 4. think with their hearts 5. make lots of mistakes 6. hate the rules 7. work independently 8. change their mind a lot 9. have a reputation for eccentricity 10. dream big… What the post fails to mention is they also 11. don’t listen (which goes with number 5) 12. believe others are telepathic and know what they’re talking about at all times 13. interrupt regularly with a new and better concept, disregarding the 57 hours already invested on another notion 14. jump over processes and irritate traffic managers the world over...

This is in no way an exhaustive list of the many salient and aggravating-slash-endearing features of our President, but let the record reflect he has one particular characteristic―let’s go ahead and call it a freaky talent―that makes him outstanding, bar none: he knows how to pick the best people. Alright, granted, perhaps, stating “bar none” is going too far because, when he’s blindsided, bushwhacked or sucker-punched into a less-than-the-usual-superlative hire, sinister comedy ensues: spectacularly appalling selections yield days of headaches and utter darkness, and we mean National Geographic (or maybe Enquirer) worthy kind of awful (enter exemplary sample #1 who spelled it “cuntry” and had us cowering in our seats hoping Facebook would crash and drag us all down along with it). But, jokes aside, Javier’s standard picks for his staff are so finely-tuned, so adept and adroit, that although most companies’ “About Our Staff” pages read like a glorified and “cornyfied” glittering saccharine roster of fully-blown hot-air achievements, our agency’s isn’t. What you read is what you get, and here we have a bunch of hand-picked, individually-vetted hard-getters that can get with the best, at their best, and give them a good dash for their money to beget the most where any can be got. And if that didn’t make any sense, Javier’s ability is something none of us can fully understand either.

Let the record also show that Javier is as socially awkward as a moose in a Tiffany’s stained-glass shop but he is also shrewd, client-driven, employee-friendly, ambitious, approachable, astutely-charming and single-mindedly obtuse about agency projects in the best possible sense while also charismatically manipulative and maneuvering to the point where, when the dust finally settles, one wonders “how in sweet Saint Peter’s name did he get me to agree to run a 5k marathon while handing out cold drinks to participants? First thing in the morning, I’m walking out on the whole event!” But you won’t; and there’ll probably be pictures to prove it. And that’s just a random example of his strange and uncanny power over people.

Another way to describe him would be to quote a renowned adage, the one that claims “if you love what you do, you won’t work a day in your life”… That’s Javier to a T. He is passionate about his job and committed to the success of each and every one of his clients, and hence, the well-being of the thing that brings together this brightly-contrasting, multi-talented and widely-accomplished crew: the agency.

He grew up on a farm in Guayama, Puerto Rico, and obtained his Bachelor’s Degree with a double major in Marketing and Economics, and a minor in Sociology from Bentley University in Boston, Massachusetts. Prior to establishing JL Marketing Firm in 2006, Javier had already been nourishing his entrepreneurial and visionary spirit for years, first setting up Infoline in 1998, a tourist-oriented information-providing interactive phone service which kept expanding until it transmuted into Movieline, a film-listing and local show-times facilitator. The company dissolved in 2003 and a bit later Javier started Interacting Services, a new initiative in marketing services with a number of big-player clients who greatly benefitted from in-depth market investigations, statistics and analytics brought about through consumer-behavior assessments.

Javier has a young daughter, Carolina, and is about to be a father again, any day now, to a baby boy. He has absolutely no down time to fool around on the web’s digital playground but, if he had a digital name, it would likely be an anagram of his name: Viaje. He’s a trip.