Every news agency on Earth reported yesterday that Hunter S. Thompson, who’s accredited with creating a writing style called “Gonzo Journalism, committed suicide Sunday night in his home in Woody Creek, Colorado.
Known by almost everyone for his 1972 book Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas, Thompson was the author of over a dozen works of quasi-nonfiction related to American politics, but his greatest achievement wasn’t writing a book about a wild weekend doing drugs in the desert. Only a few writers in the past century have really contributed to the great voice of the American language; names like Fitzgerald, Hemmingway, and Mailer come to mind, but not many others. Thompson’s ability to put himself in the action, no matter how weird, and tell the stories journalism would never have told in the 1960s and 70s, was groundbreaking. In a field where there is very little room to discover something new, Hunter unlocked a world of “bad ugliness that made him Rolling Stone magazines franchise player. Ben Fong Torres (a Rolling Stone editor who worked closely with Thompson) was on NPR today saying any time they put Hunter’s name on the cover, the magazine sold like crazy. He had legions of fans, and every journalism student worth their weight in salt has tried to copy him only to realize it’s already been done. Sorry Jackass, prepare yourself for a life of mediocrity. Hunter stole the show.
If you haven’t read Thompson’s books, you’re missing out. Fear And Loathing is incredible, but so are Hells Angels, Songs Of The Doomed, Generation Of Swine, and the rest. You might not love stories of 70s and 80s politics, but you will when they come in the Gonzo voice. He made everything readable, and you couldn’t help but agree, no matter how harsh the advice he was pimping.
I read a piece by the Associate Press a few minutes ago online. They had interviewed a bunch of his friends from his little town in rural Colorado, and they said Hunter had becoming increasingly agitated by the policies of the Bush administration and the nations sharp turn into the path of the 18-wheeler called “right-wing conservativism. Another one bites the dust.
Tomorrow there will be a fresh set of news stories, and Hunter will have disappeared into the vast ocean of celebs no longer with us. But before he’s gone, let’s all remember his credo, which in it’s Thompsonian simplicity perfectly summed up American politics, and that is:
“When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.
Rest in peace, Doc. Res ipsa loquitur.