Truth be told (and that’s really kind of the point, isn’t it?), Hunter S. Thompson stopped writing well sometime in the 70s. It doesn’t matter. Even if you discount The Great Shark Hunt, which I personally wouldn’t, you’ve got a legacy the likes of which we don’t see often. Hell. It says enough about him to say that he was so dominant, so powerful, that (despite Tom Wolfe and George Plimpton) he birthed and killed gonzo. If you write like he wrote, you’re an imitator, and who thinks of gonzo journalism as anything else but writing in his style?
So there’s that. Still, I don’t feel deprived of great works yet to come. I read his last column, written for ESPN, just to be sentimental. It’s mostly crap. “The death of professional hockey in AMERICA is a nasty omen for people with heavy investments in NHL teams”? What the fuck is that supposed to be? “It’s a nasty omen when your business shuts down, did you know that?” Well, yes; we did. The line about the very excited message is good, though.
I’m depressed anyway. Of course I am. Like he didn’t influence me tremendously? So I wrote this and I put a black border around the page. Not terribly meaningful but what can you do?
Well. Let’s stop ripping him off, for a start. I think that’d be a good tribute: let’s stop using fuck as a prefix, and let’s stop with the strange and terrible (unless you’re really quoting Tolstoy, but no cheating, OK?), and let’s just find our own voices. I’m not looking forward to reading a bunch of puerile tributes written in faux-Thompson style. Which, I hasten to note, I’ve seen none of so far. But I’m a pessimist at heart.
“So much for Objective Journalism. Don’t bother to look for it here—not under any byline of mine; or anyone else I can think of. With the possible exception of things like box scores, race results, and stock market tabulations, there is no such thing as Objective Journalism. The phrase itself is a pompous contradiction in terms.”
If I finish up with half the integrity he had, I think I’ll have done a decent job of living.
I suppose I should really say something about the death of Hunter S Thompson. Many of the reports of his death have described him as a writer but, to me, he was a journalist. His self-invented style of gonzo journalism which pushed the hack himself in…