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gonzo goodbye: hunter s. thompson

Posted by on February 21, 2005

As everyone knows by now, Hunter S. Thompson killed himself. Lileks has an excellent summation of his career:

A great writer in his prime, but the DVD of his career would have the last two decades on the disc reserved for outtakes and bloopers. It was all bile and spittle at the end, and it was hard to read the work without smelling the dank sweat of someone consumed by confusion, anger, sudden drunken certainties and the horrible fear that when he sat down to write, he could only muster a pale parody of someone else?s satirical version of his infamous middle period.

As someone who was astounded at his Fear and Loathing books (and “Hell’s Angels” which came before is a great dissection of motorcycle subculture), I, too, felt sorry for him as the drugs and alcohol took hold of him and destroyed a promising career. He had all the tools, as they say, but his hatred and his bile was stronger, and once he disposed of the tedious job of rounding up the facts to back up his rants, he became just another crank, to be pited more than listened to.

That said, if you want to know what American politics was like in 1972, read “Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail” and shake your head that American journalism has been unable to produce a single political writer worthy of Thompson.

UPDATE: John Scalzi remembers Thompson’s influence on budding reporters, while Gerard Vanderleun pops a cap in his ass.

bad make-up sex
will we notice? will we care?

One Response to gonzo goodbye: hunter s. thompson

  1. Alex

    There was always fear and bile and venom and rants within everything good Thompson ever wrote.  To attack and criticize that at the end is to spit in the face of the very foundation of what made Thompson great.

    Furthermore, it is laughable and embarassing for you to say that drugs and alcohol destroyed his career.  They fueled it, and helped make him just crazy enough to generally be right.  In fact, I can’t think of a career which has been more beautifully aided by drugs and alcohol in the history of writing.

    Perhaps you would have prefered a squeaky-clean version of Thompson who said no to drugs and wrote calm, reasonable columns for the New York times for the next 30 years, but I would not.  His emphasis was never on tedious fact gathering, but upon getting to the core of the issue, the zeitgeist, the feel, the bizarre, senseless meaning at the base of it all, if there was meaning at all, and he did so beautifully in the insane times of the second Bush administration.