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Stuff to make your work day just a bit more bearable.

Hunter S. Thompson

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Look at this guy

Look at this guy

I wrote this just really embarrassingly long post about how Hunter Thompsonadded a figurative cigarette butt to the dry American landscape of the late 60s that would become the “culture war” forest fire we’ve been enveloped in ever since, but I’ll spare you (and mostly me) the pain and summarize by saying Thompson was too bitter and self-obsessed to be great cultural critic and, let’s be fair, far too loony to be a real journalist of any description (I don’t plan on backing up these claims since that’s what got me into the mess to begin with). What he was was a great humorist, the kind of comedian who creates a character for himself and then puts this self-character into hilarious situations where he says hilarious things and everyone is square except for him and damn if it isn’t good old fun; Ferris Beuller the Freak.

I touched on this in the DF Wallace post, but it’s really damn hard to look at a writer when he has a real public persona, to seperate our preconceptions from the individual quality of the work. With Thompson this is particularly difficult, since the draw of his work is this public image of Thompson the Character, who is unquestionably more famous for the anecdotes about his exploits than the way he put words on paper (now seems like a good point to confess I haven’t actually read either Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas or Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail in their entirety). The phenomenon of percieved authorial persona shaping the judgment of fiction has had varied effects on writers, ranging from career making to life destorying. In Thompson’s case it was integral to his success, since everyone wanted to see what that kooky gonzo would do next.

On the other hand, Thompson by now may have been destroyed by association. You can just picture the same kid who reads Chuck Palahniuk and Chuck Klosterman (why is everyone who sucks named Chuck?) holding a copy of the Rum Diaries on a train headed to Williamsburg.

Judge for yourself:

The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved– Wherein our hero attends the Kentucky Derby, first meets friend-and-cover-artist to be Ralph Steadman, consumes a lot of alcohol, and makes funny yet unfortunately regionist remarks about Southerners; The read that inspired the post.

Jesus Hated Bald Pussy (actual title)- A not quite there essay on GWBush that kind of highlights what I was saying about him being a lacking cultural critic but rather funny dude.

The token interview I throw in- Just to remind you that we loved this guy not for what he said but for the way he said it.


Written by Peter Kelly

October 9, 2008 at 5:36 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , , ,

2 Responses

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  1. Good post. I’ll have to catch up on your other opinions to get the references, but yknow I watched Gonzo the other night, and the opinion of the film is spot on with whats written here. So unfortunate that the man became a cartoon of himself, and was so aware of it and so ultimately sardonic that he couldn’t produce anything that bit with flavor later in his life “Jesus Hates Bald Pussy” being a terrifically irrelevant title and perfect example. The scene in the film about the Kentucky Derby was great in opening his relationship with a king of grotesquery, Steadman, and the article does so many things for mid-south DRUNK america and Thompsons guerrilla attack on it. So prime. Any thought about attaching the sketches?

    PS jonahman3000.wordpress.com is up and running, I’d appreciate a shout-out.


    October 14, 2008 at 9:31 pm

  2. you know in the original post i had a part about how you were, at the time of me writing the post, watching the movie gonzo, and how this was yet another movie about thompson’s personality first and his life second- or at least, this was the motivation for making the movie.

    i think steadman’s sketches were essential in the formation of thompson’s public identity. thompson’s writing is sketchy and loose as it is, and he portrays everyone he meets as charicatures of- of not even people, of ideas, of notions we have about the way people act (like, for example one guy is Drunkenness, another is Ignorance). steadman’s sketches were then of his exaggerated impressions of these already exaggerated characters, the result was (in the true sense of the word) grotesque. and of course they were always people, never really scenes- just like thompson’s writing, which was more impression based than journalism.


    October 14, 2008 at 10:00 pm

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