Monday, February 20, 2006

RIP, Dr. Thompson -- One Year

I would have expected myself to come up with some sentimental, maudlin one-year-anniversary post in memory of Hunter S. Thompson's suicide one year ago today. But for whatever reason, the urge isn't there now that the moment is.

Last month, I scrapped together this piece on Thompson and originality, which is titled "On Originality." There's not much I can add to that at the moment, and it sums up what I think Thompson had to add to American literature.

But while Thompson thought of himself as a literary writer and often found himself working on those roots in fiction (see The Rum Diary), he is remembered primarily as a "Gonzo Journalist." What were his contributions to journalism?

That's trickier to pin down. But I'm pretty sure it has something to do with his ability to take his literary vocabulary and sense of storytelling and combine them with reporting on issues of the day and from the two craft a wide variety of amazing tales, many of them winding up remarkably prophetic -- read Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72 for evidence.

He had a singular and encyclopedic head for politics, which led him not only to campaign for sheriff in 1971, but also to follow the doomed George McGovern campaign the following year, and to keep current with political figures until his death. He was, unjournalistically, idealistic, but what separated him from other political activists and junkies was the fact that he was uncompromising. Journalists today can at least take something from that.

I haven't done any re-reading or research for this, but since it's the anniversary of his death, I feel compelled to write something while wrapped in a blanket and sipping a tall glass of bourbon.

To all you who have either written Thompson off as a drug-addled loon or have yet to even give him a chance, please read Hell's Angels tomorrow. You'll change your mind.


UPDATE: By the way -- if you're interested in HST merchandise, check out the store his widow Anita is currently running: The Gonzo Store. Lots of great stuff.