Monday, February 21, 2005

So long, HST.

Let's all have a moment of silence (followed by some psychedelics and some Wild Turkey) in memor of Hunter S. Thompson. Mithras wonders what Garry Trudeau will do (i.e., with the Duke character, who was based on HST), which hadn't occurred to me. When C told me this morning, I wondered whether Thompson had left a note. I haven't heard that he did, but it's a little hard to believe that someone who was so compulsively verbal just checked out w/o writing about it.

In the 1970s, while I was in high school (i.e., long before they jumped the shark), I subscribed to Rolling Stone. My dad used to grab my copies to read HST's writing, and my dad remained a fan. Me, personally, I loved him, too. There's a scene from Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail where he describes the Vietnam Veterans Against the War marching in silent protest at the Republican National Convention in 1972 that is one of the most moving things I've ever read. The whole book is fascinating, for those of you who've never read it--Thompson was not connected with the Washington power structure, and he wrote what he saw. Yes, he threw in ravings and drugs, but the political commentary was priceless. I also remember a piece he wrote for RS, it must have been in 1976, about Jimmy Carter. Hell's Angels is also fascinating, because it's basically a sociological participant-observation study, and it predates Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas, and (perhaps therefore) doesn't have the drug-crazed insanity dominating everything.

It's true that his writings were sometimes more than a little self-indulgent, but it's also true that they were often a brilliant and stark perspective on American life. Because he was who he was, because he got his start before the media conglomerates had gotten quite so conglomerated, he could still get published no matter how much he raved. There's little enough of that left; I'm going to miss him.

Update: Go see Susan's quote. (Warning: it's profanity-laced.)

Second update: I've used one of his lines as my personal motto for years: When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.

Third update: The Rude Pundit also had a nice obit (thanks to Susan for that link, too), and he, in turn, reminded me of the Nixon obituary that HST wrote. I remember loving the obit, because so many people wanted to erase what Nixon had done ("But he went to China!") and Thompson did not. That's another reason my dad liked HST: My dad schooled me in Nixon-hating early on, telling me about the Pink Lady dirty tricks. If you want to see the result of Nixon's tactics, just look at Lee Atwater and Karl Rove.

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