Bill Clinton, booze, drugs, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Generation of the Swine, gonzo, Hunter S Thompson, Hunter Thompson, Mel Gibson, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, San Francisco Examiner, Songs of the Doomed, United States, William S. Burroughs
“These are bad times for people who like to sit outside the library at dawn on a rainy morning and get ripped to the tits on crank and powerful music.”
Hunter S. Thompson, Songs of the Doomed
Today, July 18th, is Hunter S. Thompson’s 73rd birthday, or at least it would be if he hadn’t shot himself dead 5 years ago while his grandson played in another room of the rambling log cabin that was his home in Woody Creek, Colorado.
Based on those credentials, Hunter S. Thompson might present himself as an unlikely candidate for hero, literary or otherwise. Suffice to say that this lowly hack does have literary heroes, including figures as jumbled and miscellaneous as Lord Byron, Douglas Adams, Evelyn Waugh, William S. Burroughs and Oscar Wilde, and Hunter S. Thompson is one of them. That’s despite the fact I’m a cynical and jaded veteran of the journalistic trade and aware there are a lot of criticisms you can level at Thompson and his legacy. For one thing, he has become the poster boy for an awful lot of readers who cnta evne slpel tiher nwo nasem, let alone tell you for example the name of the current vice president of the United States. Well at least they’re reading something I guess.
Also, a parsing of any of Thompson’s numerous biographies and one quickly becomes aware of just how out-of-control the author of Hells Angels could get. At his worst, he must have been a fucking nightmare. A great screaming and shouting physical brute demanding expenses and room service and bottles of Chivas Regal sent up to his room so that he could finish his goddamn column. But it was even worse than that – it seems he beat his long-suffering first wife Sandy, and made a lot of other people suffer in the shadow of his savage temper. There was if we are honest, a little something of the ‘Mel Gibson in the night’ about the so-called good doctor.
And yet. However enthralling or appalling his antics were, the reason he had stood out in the first place was that at his best he wrote the same way a Cheetah can run. “A man of vast syntactical resources” as William F. Buckley put it. In the 2006 biopic ‘Hunter S. Thompson on Film’, Buckley also reads this piece by Thompson aloud.