Too weird to live, too rare to die
October 13, 2012 4:27 AM   Subscribe

"2. Airman Thompson possesses outstanding talent in writing. He has imagination, good use of English, and can express his thoughts in a manner that makes interesting reading 3. However, in spite of frequent counseling with explanation of the reasons for the conservative policy on an AF base newspaper, Airman Thompson has consistently written controversial material and leans so strongly to critical editorializing that it was necessary to require that all his writing be thoroughly edited before release." - A memo regarding Airman Second-Class Hunter S. Thompson's reporting for the base newspaper.

The phrase 'Fear and Loathing' was a common refrain is his reporting: Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail in '72, re-released last summer with a forward by Matt Taibbi, about which Taibbi was interviewed by the Village Voice.

Fear and Loathing in America, written almost immediately after the 9/11 attacks.

The phrase spawned copycats: Fear and Loathing in Tampa, the Miami New Times guide to that 2012 Republican National Convention. And followers: Fear and Self-Loathing In Las Vegas, 40 years later (previously).

A page from the FBI file on 'Hunter Stockton Thompson.'

Thompson wrote for Playboy Magazine: The Curse of Lono, about a trip to Hawai'i. Playboy also published 10 years of correspondence between their editors and Thompson, previously. He wrote He Was A Crook (previously) on Nixon's death. Ian Johnston, at The Quietus, wrote an interview in 1998 that wasn't published until 2011. Thompson was also interviewd in The Paris Review.
I just usually go with my own taste. If I like something, and it happens to be against the law, well, then I might have a problem. But an outlaw can be defined as somebody who lives outside the law, beyond the law, not necessarily against it. And it's pretty ancient. It goes back to Scandinavian history. People were declared outlaws and they were cast out of the community and sent to foreign lands—exiled. They operated outside the law and were in communities all over Greenland and Iceland, wherever they drifted. Outside the law in the countries they came from—I don't think they were trying to be outlaws . . . I was never trying, necessarily, to be an outlaw. It was just the place in which I found myself.
Johnny Depp writes in The Daily Beast about Thompson, and John Dolan at the eXile calls him A Hero Of Our Time in his obituary. Self Made hero covers some details of Thompson's childhood.

Previously: the article The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved, a 75-minute documentary titled Buy the Ticket, Take the Ride
posted by the man of twists and turns (26 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
Abbey and Thompson: Tribal Relations
Hunter S. Thompson was another writer whose power and influence was so inspiring that people, untold thousands of people, changed the way they looked at their lives and went about living as a result of that power and influence. With Hunter, fans, especially those aspiring to be writers, modified the cadence of their narratives, both literary and personal. People began to believe that, unless you drank huge quantities of alcohol and ingested significant quantities of recreational drugs, there’s no way you could ever truly be a wordsmith. The first person jumped headlong into the world of journalism, with every entry-level reporter from Findlay, Ohio, to Whitefish, Montana, trying desperately to cover school board meetings the way Hunter would. “We were somewhere around the approval of the agenda when the drugs kicked in.” Words like “screed, ”“gig,” “greedhead” and especially “gonzo” hit the lexicographic mainstream like a freight train. People started dressing in Hawaiian shirts, drinking Wild Turkey, even if they hated it, and venturing forth hajj-like to the Woody Creek Tavern in hopes of touching the hem of Hunter S. Thompson’s Bermuda shorts.
There is a Hunter S. Thompson shrine on Snowmass near Aspen, Colorado.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 4:37 AM on October 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

The opening quote is from the first volume of his epistolary compendium: The Proud Highway; of which their are two. I recommend them to just about anyone. It's there his craft as a writer is on open display. In his bestsellers he paints himself a free-ranging lupine, traveling with naught but a pistol, typewriter, and aviator glasses. In actual fact he also lugged along a large foot locker filled with his papers, photo gear, letters, and carbon copies of all. Chaining yourself to that sort of boat anchor is the mark of professional commitment. The contents of that trunk fill the pages of this work.
posted by clarknova at 5:01 AM on October 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

In fairness, Thompson didn't really want to go to the Air Force at all, and spent most of his time huffing ether in the barracks.
posted by twoleftfeet at 5:44 AM on October 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

LOL I remember reading that Army memo and the story about S/Sgt Manmountain Dense, long ago. Must be in another anthology like Shark Hunt, I haven't read Proud Highway yet.

I remember attending a "lecture" by HST at my university, back around 1973. That would have been right after the publication of Campaign Trail '72 as a book, I guess it was a book tour. I remember sitting near the front, everyone was throwing joints at the stage. It was raining joints all around me. HST had a bottle of Wild Turkey, he was totally drunk and completely incoherent. It was a Q&A, people came up to the mic and asked stupid questions, and HST mumbled unintelligible answers. I left early, after about 30 minutes.
posted by charlie don't surf at 5:55 AM on October 13, 2012 [5 favorites]

I become more and more torn, as time passes on, between the energetic tribal identification dimension of HST's output and the less romantic and more exacting view of his literary scholarship, such as it was. These days he still manages to wring a wry smile out of me (at the right time), but I can't help but think that a whole industry of countercultural hero worship was sustained out of a fairly small arsenal of material. I don't begrudge him the success and this mythological status - it's almost a rite of passage in the late teens I guess - but there's also a part of me that thinks that it was all just a bit overblown. If you were of a certain persuasion of character then reading HST was de riguer and perhaps immature at the same time. Mind you, there are some turns of phrase and the occasional paragraph that stand up well. I always thought he was a fine journalist and came to like his earlier material more than the Fear and Loathing etc etc etc gonzo palaver. Eventually he was almost a parody, out there on Owl Farm, living the myth, keeping up appearances. Or so it seemed.
posted by peacay at 6:21 AM on October 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

Of course Dolan loved (and loves) him. Dolan has HST's writing as an archetype of honesty that he wishes to emulate; it's pretty much what the Exile was.
posted by jaduncan at 6:22 AM on October 13, 2012

Campaign Trail is amazing. I read it during the run up to the 2008 election, and it was still incredibly relevant (a Daley was still mayor in Chicago then).
posted by adamdschneider at 6:22 AM on October 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think hunter s thompson was more of a shaman than a journalist. I think there is tremendous social value in people who can be that fucked up all the time and report back from the 'other side' as it were. The personal toll on him and those that loved him must have been terrible, though.
posted by empath at 7:04 AM on October 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

Godspeed Airman Thompson, you magnificent bastard.
posted by Egg Shen at 7:05 AM on October 13, 2012

As an aside, is there anyone performing the role of drug-prophet these days? After hst, RAW, Terrence McKenna, bill hicks and so on, there doesn't seem to be anybody that's taken their place.
posted by empath at 7:07 AM on October 13, 2012

I have been a fan of HST ever since coming across a copy of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas while in high school. I remain disappointed that one of his best/most influential pieces of political writing has not made it online: Jimmy Carter and the Great Leap of Faith, published in Rolling Stone in June 1976. It was his account of Carter's 1974 Law Day speech at the University of Georgia, an address that really helped put Carter on the national political stage. Thompson was impressed by Carter's honesty but stopped short of calling the piece an endorsement even though the editors at Rolling Stone subtitled it "An Endorsement With Fear and Loathing." In true HST style one of the memorable parts of the article concerns the Secret Service locking his Wild Turkey in the trunk of their car and giving him the keys so he could help himself, rummaging through a trunk full of high-powered weaponry for his bourbon.

Great set of links; am looking forward to reading them (most for the second or third time,at least).
posted by TedW at 7:27 AM on October 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

I love HST. I read Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail shortly after reading All the President's Men. There's a book pairing for you!
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 7:31 AM on October 13, 2012

Happy confession time: I am an HST fanboi.

Sad confession time: if I tried it, the lifestyle would kill me in about 72 hours flat.

Nuanced confession time: like so many alpha males from that period, HST had feet of clay. Seriously unacceptable attitudes to gender. I'd rather remember his fictional alter ego, as channeled by Warren Ellis, in the form of Spider Jerusalem.
posted by cstross at 7:32 AM on October 13, 2012 [4 favorites]

Hunter S. Thompson recalls Carter's Law Day Speech (video), text of the speech(pdf) from the Jimmy Carter Library.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:59 AM on October 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Suddenly I have a craving for Wild Turkey.
posted by Egg Shen at 8:15 AM on October 13, 2012

My dad was a photographer for the Air Force from 1954 to 1958 and was stationed at Eglin Air Force base. One of the things he told me did was take sports photos for the base newspaper. I wonder if he knew Hunter S Thompson? Unfortunately it's too late to ask either of them.
posted by interplanetjanet at 8:29 AM on October 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

I recall a bio I read once that said his name was nearly Lawless America Thompson. I think in some ways it was.
posted by vrakatar at 9:02 AM on October 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think I like the concept of "Hunter S. Thompson" more than I'd like the actual Hunter S. Thompson.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 9:12 AM on October 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

LastOfHisKind, that would be Uncle Duke from Doonesbury, of course.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 10:13 AM on October 13, 2012

When all I knew was the writings he was my hero. When I saw him on television it was very disappointing. He was boring. Terse and mumbling and monotone. He would have done far better to go a J. D. Salinger route and stay away from cameras.
posted by bukvich at 11:17 AM on October 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Writers so often disappoint in 'Real Life'
I think we need to keep their primary mission in mind.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 11:24 AM on October 13, 2012

Hunter S. Thompson applies for a job at the Vancouver Sun:

By the time you get this letter, I’ll have gotten hold of some of the recent issues of The Sun. Unless it looks totally worthless, I’ll let my offer stand. And don’t think that my arrogance is unintentional: it’s just that I’d rather offend you now than after I started working for you.

I didn’t make myself clear to the last man I worked for until after I took the job. It was as if the Marquis de Sade had suddenly found himself working for Billy Graham. The man despised me, of course, and I had nothing but contempt for him and everything he stood for. If you asked him, he’d tell you that I’m “not very likable, (that I) hate people, (that I) just want to be left alone, and (that I) feel too superior to mingle with the average person.” (That’s a direct quote from a memo he sent to the publisher.)

posted by Rumple at 11:30 AM on October 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

I don't understand why nobody seems to have noticed the huge, muddy rhinocerous that constantly followed Thompson around, and which often sat in his lap as he was trying to type.

wait, wait....Go Gonzo....
(okay, done)
posted by mule98J at 12:58 PM on October 13, 2012

Hunter S. Thompson - passage of unedited notes by Hunter in Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72
frewuently in the last two weeks, senator mcgovern had spoken of a young p black man who xxxxxx predicted that the election was going to break his heart because he was going to g find out that the american people were not as high minded as he thought they were/typically, mr. mcgovern challenged this view, x saying that he believed in the goodness and decency of the people and that they would respond to their own consciences.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 4:38 AM on October 22, 2012

« Older The Hidden Treasure of Black ASL   |   Something like Anglophilia Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments