So I took a couple of days off to reread Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and I lost all my momentum. It’s like Dr. Thompson said to Charles Perry:
I just don’t know what happened, I lost the momentum, it was just like a train on greased rails, I’ve been taking speed to get the momentum back, I haven’t slept in three days, I haven’t changed my clothes, I think my feet are rotting.
Well, it’s sort of like that, except without the speed. I never got into that stuff, thank Jeebus. But I did try to emulate Dr. Thompson in other ways, which was a mistake a lot of us made after reading Fear and Loathing. If ever there were a book that should be emblazoned with the words “Don’t try this at home,” this is it. (Or maybe The 120 Days of Sodom; but you take my point.)
I was compelled today by Dr. Thompson’s ghost to type in this entire chapter from The Curse of Lono. The Doctor has more and more taken over this blog in the last week because honestly, whose words would I rather type, his or mine? No contest.
No commentary I could add is going to do justice to this passage, which forms the true conclusion of the book (there’s another chapter after it, which could just as well have been left out). Presented in the form of a letter to Ralph Steadman, it wraps up the threads of the Lono business, the City of Refuge, the war club, and all the rest of it with a savage elegance that only Hunter Thompson was capable of.
July 1, 1981
City of Refuge
(24 hours later)...I must be getting old, Ralph, eight pages is about all I can do in one night; so I took a break and got some sleep. I also felt I should back off and have a long look at this I am Lono business, because I am wary of being fooled by another false dawn.
Dr. Thompson’s image — his well-deserved and long-cultivated image — as the drug-crazed wildman of American letters tended to obscure what a canny writer he was, at least when he was on top of his game.
Case in point: The Curse of Lono at first seems to be very loosely organized, filled with odd tangents and sidebars on Hawaiian history that at best could be called background, and at worst filler.
So we get the following data on the Hawaiian god Lono, for instance:
The spirit of Dr. Thompson seems very close at hand tonight, as I sit hunched over this beautiful white machine pushing the buttons and watching letters pop up on the screen. “Sister Morphine” just came on the stereo and the sun has dipped below the trees; a pile of Thompson books, tapes, and clippings sits to my right, topped off by a bottle of Chivas Regal, the Doctor’s whiskey of choice.
By now the Gonzo Cannon has spoken, and the Doctor’s ashes are floating around the air over Woody Creek, but the event seems to have received surprisingly little coverage, at least in this country. The best stories I could find online were from the U.K. paper The Independent and, for some reason, Al-Jazeera.
One of Ralph Steadman’s illustrations for The Curse of Lono.
Dr. Thompson’s most criminally underappreciated book is The Curse of Lono, which was published in 1983 (not, as I said yesterday, in 1980 — though it was almost entirely written in 1980, so I’m not docking myself any points for the error). For my money, this was the Doctor’s last substantial work of genius — although, having bypassed some of the later books, I could end up having to revise that opinion at some point in the future.
Like Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, The Curse of Lono begins with Thompson accepting a magazine assignment to cover a sporting event, in this case the 1980 Honolulu Marathon. The Marathon ends up as one chapter in the book, albeit a quite interesting and thoughtful one, with the Doctor offering his unique insights into the sport of running: