The 80s were not a good decade for the Doctor. In 1980 he saw his personally anointed president, Jimmy Carter, soundly thrashed by the hated Ronald Reagan. And not just beaten but roundly denounced as a failure, a weakling, and worst of all, a bummer.
America, it seemed, was tired of hearing the bad news, however truthful. People preferred Reagan’s fantasy world, where you can cut taxes and increase spending without repercussions. Even so, Carter might well have been reelected had he been able to get the hostages out of Iran; that was what really sealed his fate. Of course we know now that Reagan’s campaign made a secret deal with the government of Iran to keep the hostages until after the election, which is technically treason, but that is a topic for another time.
The point is, after The Curse of Lono was published in 1980, we didn’t hear much from Hunter Thompson for a few years, and he never seemed quite the same afterward. Like most confirmed cynics, Thompson was a romantic at heart, and I think he really allowed himself to believe in Jimmy Carter, or rather what he thought Carter represented for America: honesty, integrity, and willingness to do things the right way, even if it’s more difficult. (more…)
I can’t say too much about Dr. Thompson’s work over the last 15 years, because I stopped buying his books after shelling out $21.95 for Songs of the Doomed — which was awfully pricy for a book back in 1990, especially when you’re fresh out of college. I was not too happy to get home and discover that it consisted mostly of retreads from Hell’s Angels and The Great Shark Hunt, Examiner columns that hadn’t made it into Generation of Swine, and unpublished fiction that would have been better left unpublished. It seemed likely that the Doctor was going through one of his drunker phases, and his editors had thrown the book together from whatever they had at hand.
But even there, the real thing, the genius, would pop up once in a while. As in the short piece called “Electricity,” which you can hear here in the Doctor’s own voice:
So far as I’m aware, this last edition of the Doctor’s ESPN.com column, “Hey Rube,” was his only published writing of 2005. I was just going to post a link here, but since it took me the better part of the day to get the goddamn thing to load successfully, and it was on a horrific yellow background when it finally did, I decided to just rip it off in its entirety and not feel bad about it. (more…)
The “Gonzo Cannon” awaits its moment of truth (thanks, Aspen Times).
In fulfillment of his last wishes, Hunter S. Thompson’s ashes will be shot out of a cannon in Woody Creek, Colorado this weekend. Originally this was to be a public event, but it has been changed to a private affair, so I will be honoring the Good Doctor here at home instead of hanging out with Bill Murray, Ralph Steadman, Jack Nicholson, Johnny Depp, and God knows who else.
Which is just as well — it would have been a circus out there, with every dubious character ever attracted by Thompson’s outlaw reputation crawling out of the woodwork, most likely out of their minds on dope and speed. On the whole, I’d much rather be holed up here in the laboratory with HST’s works, which represent the man much more than his earthly remains do.
While the method and the timing of the Doctor’s death — self-inflicted, with a pistol, in the kitchen, back in February — may have been unexpected, the fact of it came as no surprise to those of us who followed his life and times. What was surprising was that a) he had lived so long in the first place, and that b) this man whose whole life was words left no suicide note, no explanation.