Hunter S. Thompson,RIP

Monday, February 28, 2005

So much has been written about Hunter S. Thompson, RIP, both before and after his death by pre-determined self-determination (PSD), that it won't hurt to add one more small bloglet to the unorchestrated symphony of online choruses of hurrahs and boos. Booze.

Suicide. He offed himself. Read all about on Google source open line public. His minor argument with wife Anita that afternoon, his ordering her out of the kitchen, the necklace he gave to his son the night before -- this dude planned this one, that's for sure -- but what I really want to focus on here is whether or not Thompson matters much in the long view of the culture.

I read about him all these years (just ten years younger than him), read many of the Rolling Stone articles, none of his books, many of the reviews of his books, many of the news articles about him, and I even met up with him once at OU in Eugene one night when he was speaking there in the gym with Ken Kesey, also RIP.

I never really had much of an opinion of Hunter, other than he was a wild and crazy guy of the counterculture Sixties, and an interesting writer and observer, but I never was one of his big fans. Did he influence me? Not at all. Except that the phrase "fear and loathing" became a part of the culture way back then. He was a wordsmith, a celebrity of the counterculture, but he was no Hemingway, no Twain, no Faulkner. He was just Hunter S. Thompson, former juvenile delinquent arrested for theft, joined the Air Force as a teenager to get out of his forced detention life and started writing for military newspapers there.

QUOTE: One of the Air Force's most famous — in an infamous sort of way — former airman died Feb. 20 of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. While obituaries for Hunter S. Thompson are long on his role in establishing gonzo journalism — in which the writer is central to the story — his years as an Air Force journalist get scant attention, writes a reporter in the Army Times.
But well before Thompson chronicled fear and loathing in Las Vegas and in politics, he served two years in the Air Force and was honorably discharged as an airman second class.
According his biographers, Thompson enlisted with the service in 1956 after a judge gave the teenager the option of jail time or the military.

First trained as electronics technician at Scott Air Force Base, Ill., Thompson was assigned to Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., where he landed a job at information services.
Soon after, Thompson talked his way into the job of sports editor for the base newspaper, the Command Courier.

In a September 1956 letter reproduced for his book The Proud Highway, Thompson told a friend: "In short, we both know I'm no more qualified for a post like this than I am for the presidency of a theological seminary; but here is one major fact that makes it possible for me to hold this job: the people who hired me didn't bother to check any too closely on my journalistic background."

Thompson didn't win many friends among Eglin's brass and in August 1957 his commander recommend Thompson for early release.

"In summary, this airman, although talented will not be guided by policy," Col. W.S. Evans, chief of information services wrote to the Eglin personnel office. "Sometimes his rebel and superior attitude seems to rub off on other airmen staff members."

After leaving Eglin, Thompson worked for a variety of newspapers and magazines before gaining critical, counterculture and financial success in 1971 with ''Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas'' and writing for Rolling Stone magazine.

PAUL THEROUX, writing for the Guardian newspaper in the UK, from his home in Hawaii, after Thompson's suicide, noted:

Late in Bill Clinton's first campaign for the presidency, Hunter flew to Little Rock and spent an afternoon with the man and saw into his heart, describing him as humorless, ambitious and eager to please. The piece ran in Rolling Stone magazine, and Clinton must have been stung by it because he continued, in notes on White House stationery, to propitiate Hunter ("Dear Doc"), even when Hunter replied with mocking jibes or po-faced scorn. I think Thompson remained a writer of significance because of his utter contempt for power -- political power, financial power, even show-biz juice.

America is a country that celebrates fakes and posturers, but Hunter S. Thompson, who shot himself to death inside his walled compound, Owl Farm, in Colorado, on February 20, was the real thing; the genuine article, as he would have said; the real McCoy.

He lived the life he wanted as half outlaw, half hero, without any inhibition, broke the law when he felt it impinged upon him, was beholden to no one, shot holes in any fakery he found -- either with a .44 Magnum or a breezy vocabulary, and he died the same way, at the moment of his choosing, probably in great pain from a variety of ailments: spinal injury, broken bones and psychic wounds. "Pain" in the metaphysical sense, too.

UNQUOTE FROM THEROUX .................................................

My question to the literati and the blogerati and the counterculturati is this:

Maybe, just maybe, Hunter killed himself because he had come to the conclusion that he, too, was a mere faker, a poser, and just like he liked to shoot holes in any fakery he found, maybe he finally came to the conclusion that he had to shoot a hole in the fakery that was .... himself!

Because, what, in the end, did HST stand for? What kind of a better world did he want to create, to build? All he seemed to want to do was destroy, criticize, tear apart, take down, ridicule -- all the while enjoying himself in a downward spiral of booze and drugs and fags. He really didn't stand for anything positive. He was a white trailer trash kid from the wrong side of the tracks who became a JD, got caught, joined the military and then spent the rest of his life bamboozling and fooling everyone he came into contact with. A fake, with an emptiness inside him that was pitiful.

Sure, he was a great friend, a great comrade, a good father and husband, even grandpa in the last days of his life. And as an entertainer, he was first class, a clown of American history.

But what did he stand for? What did he want to replace the America he hated with? His entire life was destroy destroy destroy, and in the end, he destroyed even himself.

This was no Twain, this was no Hemingway, no Faulker, no Theroux or Mailer or Heller.

He was a creature of the counterculture and his death by PSD, a good euphemism for willful suicide, marks the final end of the counterculture. There is no more fear and loathing in America.

Godspeed, Hunter, on your journey to the stars. You had fun. We had fun watching you. But you messed up a lot, too. Don't forget that.

[leave comments below, sure.]