Thursday, January 14, 2010

Hunter S. Thompson: Rebel Life

Hunter S. is mostly remembered for his drug-induced classic Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, but what many of his fans do not study, although they know of his various stories published over the years for the likes of Rolling Stone, The New York Times, Scanlan's Monthy and Pageant. His in-your-face style of gonzo-journalism is staggeringly impressive and elegantly pleasing.

Describing the Kentucky Derby in "The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved", Thomspon catches the essence of carnivalesque revelry taken straight from the past.

Thompson when writing about his illustrator Ralph Steadman, soliloquizes that,

"Steadman wanted to see some Kentucky Colonels, but he wasn't sure what they looked like. I told him to go back to the clubhouse men's rooms and look for men in white linen suits vomiting in the urinals. 'They'll usually have large brown whiskey stains on the front of their suits,' I said. 'But watch the shoes, that's the tip-off. Most of them manage to avoid vomiting on their own clothes, but they never miss their shoes.'"

In exploring social unrest, Thompson enshrines the memory of hispanic martyr Ruben Salazar and eulogoizes his progressive acts in life. In "Strange Rumblings in Aztlan", Thompson bitterly describes the controversy surrounding Salazar's untimely death and explains the brutality that was turning America into a police state.

Thompson remembers,

"What the cops are saying is that Salazar got what he deserved - for a lot of reasons, but mainly because he happened to be in their way when they had to do their duty. His death was unfortunate, but if they had to do it all over again they wouldn't change a note.
This is the point they want to make. It is a local variation on the standard Mitchell-Agnew theme: Don't fuck around boy- and if you want to hang around with people who do, don't be surprised when the bill comes due- whistling in through the curtains of some darkened barroom on a sunny afternoon when the cops decide to make an example of somebody."

And in an opus of political theory, Thompson's coverage of the 1969 Aspen, Colorado mayoral election featuring Joe Edwards' bid for a pedestrian only downtown is timeless and essential reading for any political activist. Covering election-day get-out-the-vote effort and the campaign process as a whole, Thompson gives thoughtful insight into a valiant attempt to regain a small mountain town's indepedence and dignity.

In this classic piece, activism is the focus with Thompson playing well the role of campaigner and political theorist. With Thompson, all of the sudden possibilities become boundless, and solutions ready and ample.

He explains,

"Our program, basically, was to drive the real estate goons completely out of the valley: to prevent the State Highway Department from bringing a four-lane highway into the town and in fact to ban all auto traffic from every downtown street. Turn them all into grassy malls where everybody, even freaks, could do whatever's right. The cops would become trash collectors and maintenance men for a fleet of municipal bicycles, for anybody to use. No more huge, space-killing apartment buildings to block the view, from any downtown street, of anybody who might want to look up and see the mountains. No more land-rapes, no more busts for "flute-playing" or "blocking the sidewalk" ... fuck the tourists, dead-end the highway, zone the greedheads out of existence, and in general create a town where people can live like human beings, instead of slaves to some bogus sense of Progress that is driving us all mad."

"Freak Power in the Rockies" is a tour-de-force, one of Thompson's finest works.

In it all Thompson maintains his swagger and some of his satirical honesty chuckles the reader and brushes off upon them Thompson's own creative individuality. His unique interpretation of life, socciety and their ails beckons a continuing intellectual conversation on the things that make us human and the conditions we must mind, confront and deal around. The late Thompson manifests as an American hero unmatched in recent times.

His rebellious, independent nature begs each person to experience life on a new plane unhindered by learned considerations. In his effort, Thompson succeeds and teaches devotees the chaotic serenity of life.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Cool review man. I've got to read some of his stuff sometime soon. One of the great authors I haven't got around to reading yet. -- Mordechai