Friday, December 2, 2011

on Hunter S. Thompson - 2/3

Three days later, and I’m about a third of the way through this massive 600+ page collection of stories. Bafflingly titled The Great Shark Hunt (it’s the name of one of the stories to come, but I’m not optimistic that reading that piece will make the meaning of the title any clearer) it’s a collection of his papers and stories and ramblings that was first published in 1979. The collation goes from the early sixties right through to the late seventies, and according to Goodreads, the book spans Mr. Thompson’s ‘primo era’, and is a great way to begin ‘the grim safari’ of Gonzo journalism.

What is Gonzo journalism? It’s this kind of writing style/reporting style/ life style that Mr. Thompson pioneered (read: he completely made it up), where you inject yourself so much into the situation you’re reporting, that you become an essential element of the story you’re telling. It usually involves alarming levels of alcohol and drug consumption, a lot of violence, and general insanity. Through the pages of The Great Shark Hunt you can see the style slowly emerge. The chunky paperback is split into four parts, and I foresee that when I get to the first story of that last part four (the story that the book gleans its title from) I will be able to see this Gonzo journalism concept in full swing.

I suppose in amongst all this talk of drugs and craziness, you might have reason (read: it would be reasonable to suspect) that Mr. Thompson is just some dramatic lunatic with flair who sprinted through life with a press pass having a hoot of a time and not doing much else. What I really didn’t expect, was to read the writings of an extremely intelligent man. I’m not kidding. This guy connects the dots like a fiend, and he has an uncanny ability to sort through the crap and identify what the real problem (read: story) is. He has a wicked sense of humor, and it’s the kind of funny that only comes from a sharp wit and a sharper mind. It’s that special kind of funny that only smart people can write. It’s that kind of funny that gives you chest pains. 

Another reason I like this book so far, is because it’s teaching me a lot about America. I’ve never been there, and although I fully intend on going (I think I’ll study there for a semester and do the whole cross-country roadtrip thing in a couple of year’s time) a lot of that massive nation is still a total mystery to me. Mr. Thompson’s articles are teaching me a lot about underlying issues and values in America, and whilst some of them are obviously outdated or altered now, he is genius in the way he communicates some of the universal truths that he discovers on his travels. I’m learning a lot, that’s for sure. I mean, at least I know what the hell Kentucky Derby is now – even if the story was aptly titled The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved. Lol.

The only downside I can see so far comes from my personal lack of interest in sports. An example is how I became a little bored in the Fear and Loathing at the Superbowl story, simply because I don’t care much for football. I actually really don’t like it, and it’s a testament to the colours and awesomeness in Mr. Thompson’s writing, that I read through all the articles regardless of their topic. Dude, the superbowl story starts with him going crazy thinking there is a leech crawling up his spine, and going out onto the balcony of his hotel and yelling a crazed ‘inspired sermon’ at the top of his lungs to the other hotel guests – at some ludicrous hour of the morning. It’s hilarious! And he is also the perfect amount of cynical when reporting about sports. I don’t mind reading for hours about American football if it’s done with adequate parts of each humor, cynicism, reality, and wit. Hunter S. Thompson gets that balance down onto those pages perfectly.

It’s a big book, though, and I don’t want to pass final judgment until I have made my way right though it, so I'll save my word count for now. I suspect I'll be finished reading this colossal tome in about a week. 


  1. Why I'm friends with you? Too cool to handle. I want to read this books so bad.

  2. Hunter Thompson is the sole reason I want to get a Vincent Black Shadow. I know it's a bike. I hope it's black. Beyond that... I could google it, but that would ruin the image in my head.
    Sure, his writing is choppy, he likes guns and he can be a downright asshole in his articles. On those accounts I wouldn't be interested, but if you strip everything else away, there was an incredibly wise man writing those books.


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