Thursday, February 24, 2005

Fear & Loathing

  My hero is dead.  On Sunday night, he shot himself in the head.

  No one thought that Hunter S. Thompson, the voice of America’s discontented and champion of the First Amendment, would go out that way.  He was, in his own words, “too weird to live, too strange to die.”  On Sunday, one of the most talented and dangerous writers America has ever known wrote his own ending.

  Hunter Stockton Thompson was born in Louisville, Kentucky in 1937.  He served in the U.S. Air Force, and was sports editor of a military newspaper in Florida.  After an honorable discharge, he traveled the Americas as a freelance writer for several magazines.  Thompson was a pioneer in the New Journalism movement, along with Tom Wolfe and Gay Talese, in which the journalist immerses himself in the story, becoming an integral factor in it.  Until Hunter came along, journalists strived to remove themselves from their story.  Journalism was impartial and unbiased.  Hunter Thompson changed all that.

  In 1966 he published his first book, “Hell’s Angels,” a pretty straight-forward account of the year he spent researching and riding with the motorcycle gang.  Five years later he published his masterpiece, “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.”  In the years since, he has written eleven more.

  As a writer, Thompson’s magic was in stringing together six or seven ugly words with negative connotations.  His long, flowing sentences were at once brutally scathing and hilarious. 

  “It would be easy to say that we owe it all to the Bush family from Texas, but that would be too simplistic.  They are only errand boys for the vengeful, bloodthirsty cartel of raving Jesus-freaks and super-rich money mongers who have ruled this country for at least the last 20 years, and arguably for the past 200.”  You can see what I mean.

  Thompson was a wordsmith of the first degree.  His dangerous lifestyle was fodder for his many articles in Rolling Stone and, most recently, on  He lived recklessly, wrote recklessly, and died that way, too.

  The legacy that Hunter S. Thompson leaves behind is a rich one.  He will be eulogized in a million beautiful ways.  Gerry Goldstein, a prominent Aspen attorney and friend of Thompson’s, said “He kept us all honest.  It didn’t matter who you were, whether you were his friend or someone he didn’t even know.  He didn’t mind grading your paper.  He was righteous.  He was part of a literary nobility.”

  The “Gonzo” style of Hunter Thompson’s writing has been imitated by many, accomplished by none.  When attempted, it always comes off cheap, like flea-market perfume.  And that is what the world has lost: the one person who could do that well.

  Wherever Hunter S. Thompson is today is a more dangerous place now.  And a better one.  Mahalo, Hunter.  Goodbye, dear friend.  We’ll miss you.

-From Pulse
  February 24, 2005