Hunter S. Thompson is Dead

Many people compared the recent elections to the anti-war movement in the 1960’s, and with good reason. The raw emotion that the Left displayed in 2004 pretty much mimicked what they went through in 1968.

America was going through some wild times back then, and the people who were at the forefront of most of the social changes tried to grab on to too much too fast. The so-called “counter culture” threw itself behind anything that would horrify conservatives. Some of these causes such as women’s lib, the environment and equal rights were long overdue for a hearing in US consciousness. Others such as rampant sexuality, avoidance of responsibility and drug use probably shouldn’t have been as fervently embraced.

One of the people who perfectly encapsulated the mind set of the time was Hunter S. Thompson, who committed suicide yesterday.

By the time I got around to reading Hell’s Angels in 1979 or 1980, the era and social pressures which created it had already passed. That’s probably why I found his book to be evocative, well written…..and silly in the extreme.

Thompson seemed to think that great insights about average America could be gleaned by studying a bunch of drunken scumbags whose main claim to fame was that they gave law enforcement a hard time. The way that normal white-bread people who owned homes and small businesses reacted with fear to a swarm of Angels descending on their town was written up as if it revealed the hypocrisy of middle American culture. Not only did I think the fear to be justified, but Thompson himself proved it by detailing the way they lived and treated one another.

Thompson’s other work is pretty much more of the same. Drug fueled rants where he records how he tried to get away with as much as he could, while claiming that the scorn and outrage this behavior produced from people with regular jobs and concerns proved that they were contemptible. This is why I always admired Thompson for his talent with the pen but never thought that he was anything more than a footnote in US culture whose shelf life had passed.

A movie based on one of Thompson’s books is Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and most of the news articles reporting his suicide mention it. But I think the film which most closely captures Thompson and his impact is Where the Buffalo Roam. It’s worth an overnight rental.

1 thought on “Hunter S. Thompson is Dead”

  1. I too never had much use for Thompson–I was more of a P. J. O’Rourke fan, before O’Rourke became an institution.

    But Thompson does have his niche in the counter-culture pantheon, and it would be wrong to deny it. I feel that his most fitting epitaph, for his fans at least, could be found in 1979’s The Great Shark Hunt:

    “So much, then, for The Road–and for the last possibilities of running amok in Las Vegas & living to tell the tale. But maybe we won’t
    really miss it. Maybe Law & Order is really the best way to go, after all.

    “Yeah…maybe so, and if that’s the way it happens…well, at least I’ll know I was there, neck deep in the madness, before the deal went
    down, and I got so high and wild that I felt like a two-ton Manta Ray jumping all the way across the Bay of Bengal.

    “It was a good way to go, and I recommend it highly–at least for those who can stand the trip. And for those who can’t, or won’t, there is
    not much else to say.”

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