By Ken Tucker
August 06, 2010 at 02:25 PM EDT

Last night on CNN, Anderson Cooper conducted a terrific interview with Christopher Hitchens, who was recently diagnosed with esophageal cancer while promoting his excellent new autobiography Hitch-22.

Hitchens is famous for, among other things, being a blunt-talking atheist and a ferocious dismantler of cant language. While it makes one’s heart ache to see Hitchens without his thick thatch of hair, he’s quietly funny in his lucid explanations of why he’ll try to avoid any death-bed conversions and the ridiculousness of the use of the word “battle” when it comes to receiving cancer treatment. He also makes wry note of the websites that are “celebrating” the possibility of his premature death.

Cooper meets the challenge of engaging with Hitchens. Noting that Hitchens has discussed the death of his father and his mother’s suicide in conversation and in print, Cooper speaks of the death of his own father and the suicide of a family member, and they share their mutual dislike of the term “closure.” It’s a striking piece of television. One comes away appreciating Cooper’s knack for conversation instead of mere question-asking, and wishing Hitchens all the best.

Did you have any thoughts about this interview?