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Gonzo Obits

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Writers’ obituaries by other writers are normally very well-written. Besides chronicling-reminiscing about the deceased, they afford us a chance to appreciate the eulogizer’s own writing and life. Occasionally, as illustrated by Jan Herman, obits afford one final chance to drive the knife in, and twist it deeply.

Various excellent obituaries have already been published about Hunter S Thompson’s death. The weeklies will have additional, measured pieces once they hit the stands. And we haven’t seen a Doonesbury reference yet.

Some fine pieces:

Tom Wolfe in the Opinion Journal

Hunter’s life, like his work, was one long barbaric yawp, to use Whitman’s term, of the drug-fueled freedom from and mockery of all conventional proprieties that began in the 1960s. In that enterprise Hunter was something entirely new, something unique in our literary history. When I included an excerpt from “The Hell’s Angels” in a 1973 anthology called “The New Journalism,” he said he wasn’t part of anybody’s group. He wrote “gonzo.” He was sui generis. And that he was.
Yet he was also part of a century-old tradition in American letters, the tradition of Mark Twain, Artemus Ward and Petroleum V. Nasby, comic writers who mined the human comedy of a new chapter in the history of the West, namely, the American story, and wrote in a form that was part journalism and part personal memoir admixed with powers of wild invention, and wilder rhetoric inspired by the bizarre exuberance of a young civilization. No one categorization covers this new form unless it is Hunter Thompson’s own word, gonzo. If so, in the 19th century Mark Twain was king of all the gonzo-writers. In the 20th century it was Hunter Thompson, whom I would nominate as the century’s greatest comic writer in the English language.

Christopher Hitchens in Slate

He’s fine when hanging out with Warren Zevon, but he appears a bit lost when he’s discharging fire extinguishers, or hurling blown-up fuck-dolls around the scenery, as if this sort of thing was expected of him. “He was never one to hang around when it was time to go,” a mutual friend e-mailed me on Monday. The realization that this might have occurred to him before it occurred to us is a very melancholy one.

hst cartoon anderson

John Nichols in the Nation

Thompson also taught me how to do politics. Thompson was a journalist in the traditional sense of the craft and, as such, he was entirely unwilling to merely observe the wrongdoings of the political class. He wanted to create a newer, better politics — or, at the very least, to so screw up the current machinery that it would no longer work for the people who he referred to as “these cheap, greedy little killers who speak for America today.”

The Times of London

As the 1970s went on a certain exhaustion was detectable in the powers of invention, and in the purity of the perceptions. Unlike other exponents of New Journalism, notable among them Norman Mailer and Tom Wolfe, Thompson undoubtedly ran out of steam, becoming an object of parody, as he was in Gary Trudeau’s balding Doonesbury cartoon character “Uncle Duke”. But in liberating the journalist from the canons of “objectivity” in the first place, Thompson was able to bring to his reporting all the individual’s sense of bewilderment in a hideous and complex world.

Henry Rollins for the Washington Post(in MSNBC.com)

We’re left wondering what happened. He once said: “I hate to advocate weird chemicals, alcohol, violence or insanity to anyone . . . but they’ve always worked for me.” Until maybe he got wondering about the ultimate high being a 1,500-feet-per-second implantation in the neurological system.

Or the paranoia got to him — in paranoia you are your own worst enemy, and that’s a tightening circle that nobody can escape, except, say, by suicide. Or it was pain and depression brought on by reported back surgery, a broken leg and a hip replacement. Or he was playing out the last moves of the Hemingway game — the paranoid, shock-treated Hemingway who ended up with his doctor one day, crying because he said that he couldn’t write anymore, he just couldn’t write. Or America has finally become what he said it was, with lie-awake fears of suitcase nukes, jails full of secret uncharged prisoners with no legal recourse, and quiet applause for the recreational torture of Arabs in Iraq. Or people have stopped reading, and there are no more literary heroes. Or maybe he just killed himself, like a number of other people on any given day. He lived on his terms, he died on his own terms.

Al Jazeera

He was quoted as saying 9/11 had caused a “nationwide nervous breakdown” and “let the Bush crowd loot the country and savage American democracy”, according to an interview published by salon.com in February 2003.

Thompson, who regarded himself as a patriot, said civil liberties had been compromised for what he called “the illusion of security”.

That, he said was “a disaster of unthinkable proportions” and “part of the downward spiral of dumbness” he believed was plaguing the country.

A salon.com roundup from Hell’s Angels, Jerry Walker and Rosalyn Carter. The Salon feature obit is also quite interesting

May the kindly trickster gods collect you, Hunter Thompson, and drive you to where the buffalo roam, where your mind can unspool itself forever and your spirit can go on groping unsuspecting tits and trashing hotel rooms. You have earned it, Golden and Immortal Son of Classic Letters. Rest in Whatever You Would Prefer to Peace. We, the filthy and leaderless children who cherish your legacy, salute you, and will honor you with every bullet fired out of our car windows toward the unmarked desert sky.

William Pitt of truthout.org, from alternet.org

My hero died tonight. He was a flawed man, a maniac, in so many ways the antithesis of what a journalist is supposed to be. Worst of all, he told the truth. There is now one less warrior on this planet filled with Guckert clones, drones who get fed shit and regurgitate it wholesale for the masses because that is what we are trained to eat

with this poignant handwritten note
hunter note

The blogcritics roundup – reflecting many points of view on Hunter S Thompson

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  • Eric Olsen

    very nice and helpful Aaman, thanks!

  • Thanks Eric, a powerful life, well-remembered

  • Al Jazeera seems to have a particular interest in Hunter’s 9/11 thought.

  • Very cool roundup, Aaman. I especially enjoyed the thoughts of Wolfe and Rollins.

  • Thanks EB – shows how good and powerful traditional journalism still is.

  • gonzo marx

    the Curse of Lono is finally fufilled…the greedheads and swine can rejoice…i can almost hear the Tin Man with his gravelly chortle pulling his hand out of the Shrub’s ass for a second so he can squirt some Iraqi’s blood onto the corners of his rusted mouth, enabling that shark like smile….fuck them…i refuse to allow this Horror to drown me in the Kingdom of Fear

    a giant has fallen in the Wilderness…none of the “legit” Citizens will do more than a token Notice…but the freaks,the outlaws,the strange, the thinkers, the Doomed….they will notice.

    among the Tribe of the Weird there will be much Lamenting and consuming of peyote buttons as we Spirit Walk and rail against the gods as to why our Shaman has been taken from U.S.

    the gods won’t Answer, of course…they never do, and now there is one less Voice to put our muddied feet on the Path…one less Visionary to rub our noses in the fact that the Emperor is ALWAYS naked…you can almost hear the cackling from Hell as Nixon jerks off violently in small souled glee…

    when most of the hippies that had tuned in,turned on and dropped out shed their tye dye clothes for the yuppie suits and BMW’s of Reagan’s 80’s…becoming the fascist neo-Cons, epitome of all they had railed against, Hunter stood firm on the slippery muck of Principle and Truth…spewing the Words that helped tear away the Veil of Corporate propaganda and hauling us out of the rut induced by cowardly, politically correct, right-think.

    he was not the kind of man that burst thru a concrete wall spitting dust and looking good doing it, he was more the guy who watched that Freak consume the room, and then picked up all the loose change on the floor after the bar fight…but he always “stomped on the terra”, leaving indelible boot prints on the necks of our Spirits as he gnawed on the Skull of Truth with his very own teeth.

    so wash down that mescaline with a quart of Wild Turkey, spark a joint and wait for it all to kick in…give the good Doctor the mother of all Wakes that he deserves….

    me…i’ll be wondering who is going to feed the mojo-wire with the flotsam of America’s id, and wailing and gnashing my teeth in the realization that half a continent away in the quiet snows of Owl Farm the peacocks are crying….


  • That’s another legacy of Thompson’s death: it gives all his fans a chance to pretend they’re him.

  • gonzo marx

    ya forgot one there, Rodney…

    he also always inspired the shriveled spirits trapped in their hydroenchephelatic, pus sucking existances to Critique their betters, because they not only couldn’t Contribute to the Discussion…

    they can’t even comprehend the Subject..

    nuff said?

  • Which is why I selected only real writers/journos for the obits above – leastways they can claim they know the profession from the inside. (And fine writing too)

  • gonzo marx

    bah..*encephelatic*…i know..

    i just can’t fewking spell