Playboy and Hunter S. Thompson
October 17, 2011 9:25 PM   Subscribe

I know we all do the mental-voice thing when reading someone with character, but holy shit does his tone carry through in his writing. Non-stop.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:29 PM on October 17, 2011

Wow. I think I'll have to save this to read later. I'm pretty sure the "I'm just reading it for the articles" defense won't play well at my junior high school.
posted by Ghidorah at 9:43 PM on October 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

I liked the handwritten note from "date unknown": P.S. in re: Qui's request for "my hangover cure" - it's 12 Amyl Nitrites (one box), in conjunction with as many beers as necessary. OK.

As Thompson must have known, that's not a cure, it's only a delay.
posted by three blind mice at 9:53 PM on October 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

or a hangover enhancement.
posted by Mr_Zero at 10:14 PM on October 17, 2011

My faves are his letters to Pat Buchanan while Buchanan was a speech writer for Nixon. They would get together, get drunk and watch football, as if they weren't literally on opposite sides of a titanic divide.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:20 PM on October 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Anything to get a story. I bet he was trolling the whole time.
posted by Mr_Zero at 10:24 PM on October 17, 2011

in re: Qui's request

Sorry. Reading some of the other letter's it's clear he was referring to Oui (Wikipedia, but probably NSFW). I guess I am not too embarrassed to have missed that.

Interesting the expense statement from May 21, 1969.

$198.45 Aspen-Chicago RT

$10.40 Holiday Inn lodging.

The cost of airfare hasn't changed all that much, but lodging certainly has.
posted by three blind mice at 10:41 PM on October 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

HST's arithmetic at the bottom of this one is shaky.
posted by telstar at 11:34 PM on October 17, 2011

Thompson's letters from the 1970s - collected as Fear & Loathing in America - are well worth reading too. They're full of savage, very funny arguments about Rolling Stone's refusal to pay Thompson's epic expense claims from the adventures he later wrote up in the magazine. One critic described them as "the kind of letters Wile E. Coyote would write to the Acme Corporation", which catches the tone perfectly.

Incidentally, one of that book's letters also contains comments from Thompson which ought to settle once and for all the argument about just how fucked up he was during his legendary trip to Las Vegas. Writing to Jim Silberman at Random House, he says:

"The only thing that vaguely alarmed me about your letter was your statement, to wit: 'You know, it was absolutely clear to me reading Las Vegas that you were not on drugs...' This is true, but what alarms me is that Vegas was avery conscious attempt to simulate drug freakout. [...] My conception of that piece was to write a thing that would tell what it was like to do a magazine assignment with a head full of weird drugs. I didn't really make up anything - but I did at times bring situations and feelings I remember from other scenes to the reality at hand."

Later, discussing Rolling Stone's editors, he says: "They're absolutely convinced, on the basis of what they've read, that I spent my expense money on drugs and went to out to Las Vegas for a ranking freakout. Probably we should leave it this way; it makes it all the more astounding that I could emerge from that heinous experience with a story."

posted by Paul Slade at 1:01 AM on October 18, 2011 [5 favorites]

My faves are his letters to Pat Buchanan while Buchanan was a speech writer for Nixon. They would get together, get drunk and watch football, as if they weren't literally on opposite sides of a titanic divide

Well, HST always did admire the quality of Buchanan's writing, even if he disagreed with everything Buchanan said. (Atlantic interview with HST from '97, relevant portion about 2/3 of the way through).
posted by KingEdRa at 1:04 AM on October 18, 2011

Loving the letterhead!
posted by Joe Chip at 4:28 AM on October 18, 2011

Hunter was a great letter writer. Obviously his crazy over-the-top missives are fun, but I also really like the more personal and insightful letters. Some of his best writing is in those letters collections. While reading Proud Highway I was stunned at how good his writing was even as a teen.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 5:58 AM on October 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Alright, which one of you monkeys has the sac to call the number at the bottom of the first letter?
posted by spicynuts at 6:35 AM on October 18, 2011

I called that number a few minutes ago. It rang quite a few times and I was about to hang up when someone picked up. It was a crappy connection and there was a weird static all through but as far as I recall the conversation went something like this:

" Uh... hello ?"
"hello....sorry to be calling you so early but...."
...static and then " Who the fuck is this!"

"Look, I'm sorry to bother you but , well this is kind of a weird story but I saw some letters on the internet and...."

"The INTERNET! ? You godless fucking wanker . You woke me up at six in the morning because you read something on the fucking internet!" I've got better things to do than talk to some ...." {sounds like someone sniffing }

"My bad. You had the same number as ..."

" SCREW YOU! Can't you see I'm busy? Why the HELL are you wasting my time? These god awful bats aren't going to kill themselves. I got things to do - go screw yourself!"

and with that they hung up. People in Colorado apparently really hate being called early.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 6:50 AM on October 18, 2011 [3 favorites]

The Atlantic interview linked above is great. Thanks for that and for these amazing letters.

QFT from the interview:

MH: The Internet has been touted as a new mode of journalism -- some even go so far as to say it might democratize journalism. Do you see a future for the Internet as a journalistic medium?

HST: Well, I don't know. There is a line somewhere between democratizing journalism and every man a journalist. You can't really believe what you read in the papers anyway, but there is at least some spectrum of reliability. Maybe it's becoming like the TV talk shows or the tabloids where anything's acceptable as long as it's interesting.

I believe that the major operating ethic in American society right now, the most universal want and need is to be on TV. I've been on TV. I could be on TV all the time if I wanted to. But most people will never get on TV. It has to be a real breakthrough for them. And trouble is, people will do almost anything to get on it. You know, confess to crimes they haven't committed. You don't exist unless you're on TV. Yeah, it's a validation process. Faulkner said that American troops wrote "Kilroy was here" on the walls of Europe in World War II in order to prove that somebody had been there -- "I was here" -- and that the whole history of man is just an effort by people, writers, to just write your name on the great wall.

You can get on [the Internet] and all of a sudden you can write a story about me, or you can put it on top of my name. You can have your picture on there too. I don't know the percentage of the Internet that's valid, do you? Jesus, it's scary. I don't surf the Internet. I did for a while. I thought I'd have a little fun and learn something. I have an e-mail address. No one knows it. But I wouldn't check it anyway, because it's just too fucking much. You know, it's the volume. The Internet is probably the first wave of people who have figured out a different way to catch up with TV -- if you can't be on TV, well at least you can reach 45 million people [on the Internet].

posted by chavenet at 6:52 AM on October 18, 2011 [3 favorites]

I want to swim in the Magic Pool.
posted by Capt. Renault at 7:14 AM on October 18, 2011

HST's arithmetic at the bottom of this one is shaky.

Haha yes, though mostly in his favour. Always check the expenses claims of gonzo journalists.
posted by iotic at 8:03 AM on October 18, 2011

That was awesome. I selfishly miss HST, no one can fill those boots.
posted by handbanana at 9:13 AM on October 18, 2011

Did he ever write that werewolf article? Anybody know where to find it?
posted by cmoj at 12:35 PM on October 18, 2011

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