A Tribute to Hunter S. Thompson: Journalist, Novelist, Madman
Monday, February 28, 20050 Comments
“There he goes. One of God's own prototypes. Some kind of high powered mutant never even considered for mass production. Too weird to live, and too rare to die.” – Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
I, for one, was deeply saddened to hear about the death of Hunter S. Thompson while we were all enjoying our reading week. I wonder though, how many of us were actually reading. I set out to get reacquainted with Thompson’s works after hearing he had died from a self inflicted gunshot on Sunday February the 20th in his home in Aspen Colorado after much frustration over his failing health and declining ability to write.
Too many students are familiar with Thompson only through the film version of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas where he became known as “that guy who did all those drugs in that trippy movie”. This is a bit like referring to Michael Jordon as “that guy from the McDonald’s commercials”.
He published his first (and arguably best) novel, The Rum Diary, when he was just twenty-two, an age that most of us are within one or two years of ourselves. In addition to this he wrote for Rolling Stone, Sports Illustrated, ESPN and countless other media sources who were willing to take on his unique style of writing. He truly was a pioneer in both journalism and fiction writing. His style, which became known as “Gonzo Journalism” moved the focus of the story from just examining the five W’s to how the author experienced them. A thousand word story about a football game became a funny, disturbing or provocative personal narrative that left the reader knowing how it felt to be there rather than just what the score might have been.
His fiction writing stood out from the crowd as well often acting as a window into what many of us know we are capable of yet dare not indulge. His characters ventured out beyond the safe places and situations to look back and tell us things are things can get pretty ugly, so if we want to experience the depravity he was so passionate about, we ought to be prepare ourselves. His works often blurred the line between fiction and fact just as the drugs and booze that fueled his bizarre experiences blurred his perception of reality, thus making his creativity a gift to us.
His life also involved politics and close friendships with many celebrities. In 1970 Thompson ran for Sheriff of Pitkin County, Colorado on the Freak Power ticket and campaigned to rename Aspen to "Fat City, Colorado" , tear up the downtown streets and replace them with bike paths, decriminalize drug possession and to decriminalize the sale of drugs (but only at cost). He was close friends with Johnny Depp and Bill Murray (both of whom played him in feature length films). Murray credited much of his Saturday Night Live behaviour and interactions to what he learned while spending time with Thomson and his unique personality. It is noted as well that George Bush once attended one of Thompson’s Super Bowl parties while high on cocaine (though we won’t hold that against Hunter now).
God rest Hunter Thompson. The literary world has lost a revolutionary whose view of American culture was as bold and original as can ever be asked for. Thank you Hunter for smearing your Technicolor feces on the drab walls of tame and dull culture and thank you for inspiring so many of us write, read and think as originally as possible. I implore everyone to pick up a copy of one of his books or to seek out his articles and see just how much he speaks to you.