April 22, 2010

Gonzo But Not Forgotzo

I have been a big fan of Hunter S. Thompson ever since Gary Trudeau channeled him in Doonsebury, and then through his Fear and Loathing novels, and later when he became a contributor to ESPN's fledgling Page 2.  His writing was always engrossing even when it was sloppy. His stories were about presidents and athletes and rock stars but really, they were about him.  You never lost track of the fact that you were reading the words of Hunter S. Thompson.  His personality was a watermark on every page he wrote.  And until he died, Hunter S. Thompson and I shared a birthday, which is funny because his life was filled with a level of recklessness, defiance and paranoia that I feared and loved but mostly envied.  I'm still not a fan of guns and weapons, or plastic cigarette holders for that matter.  But Thompson was gonzo to the bone.

Here is a great link to ten memorable Hunter Thompson quotes.  It's really worth reading the entire list.  I think #1 is devastating.

What prompted this post was an entry on Gawker this morning that showed a contract Hunter Thompson "signed" from a TV production company.  It's hilarious and in its own way, inspiring.

When you read the top 10 quotes, and if you snoop around the web for any of his other writing, it is clear that Thompson was tapped into what makes our social networking, blogging, web-surfing, reality tv, Sims 2, talking heads, consumerist society so pitiable, tragic, alarming.  The world shrinks into the palm of our hand, and our imaginations with it.  We check our Blackberries every five minutes at our own peril.  Virtual life is no life at all.  Hunter, I promise to unplug more often, but I don't promise to get high on ether and blow up shit.  Do we have a deal?


Muggsy Mutombo said...

Thompson is an interesting guy. I'm not a fan but I respect his influence. As I see it, he and Bukowski get a lot of credit for making harsh and negative seem cool to hipsters who wish they could be as edgy in their daily lives. Not saying that's you, just saying that's they vibe I get overall.

If social networking is tragic, pitiable and alarming, why do you participate in and advocate Facebook?

Virtual life is a life for some, especially those who may be shy or uncomfortable meeting & approaching people in person, or those who are isolated in lifestyle by geography. It's not a life you or I would want to depend on, but that doesn't mean it's not a life.

Hunter was plenty plugged in. He created an illusion that he wasn't. His writing for Rolling Stone is not unlike someone experiencing their own story and writing it in a blog. Just because Rolling Stone is paying for it doesn't make it any more legit.

Gen R said...

I have read some Bukowski and I never got the sense that he was trying to make his life seem cool. His prose is as self-degrading as it gets. Maybe some readers found an edgy allure in what he wrote, but I don't think Bukowski was going for being cool. You should read Jesus' Son by Denis Johnson, a truly great book along the same lines.

Thompson found his niche by melding the 60's drug culture with political journalism, a shtick that produced some memorable prose. Much like Kerouac, Thompson became part of whatever story he was writing. Maybe Thompson was trying to be cool but I don't think he was trying to influence hipsters as much as he was trying to tear down false idols. He brought a new level of irreverence and defiance to American politics, a lack of deference for the presidency and our politicians that has lasted to this day. Very influential. I never thought he was trying to get kids to drink, shoot or trip more often. I thought his central thesis was that pretty much everyone is full of sh-t.

My intent was to say that Thompson was tapped into those aspects of social networking that is tragic pitiable and alarming. I do believe I made points about virtual life similar to what you wrote here when you were debating whether it was a good idea to sign up for Facebook. Still, our being perpetually "connected" takes a toll on personal connections, connections with nature, connections with our subconscious, our contemplative time. It is a distraction. Like so many other technological advances, it can be too much of a good thing.

Thompson may have published articles on line. He may have been part of modern media via Rolling Stone and ESPN.com. And for all I know he would have had a Twitter account that would have made @shitmydadsays look like Mr. Rogers. But I think his reclusiveness and misanthropy was real. He really did live in a small cabin in the Colorado woods for over 30 years. If he had had a tombstone it would have been shaped like a middle finger. I'm grateful for what he wrote - and for what you wrote as well!