Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Nobody wrote politics like Hunter S. Thompson

Matt Davis at Ghost Road Press in Denver alerted me to goodreads.com, where readers meet to recommend books, slam others, and just talk about their favorite subjects -- books and authors.

Yesterday Matt sent comments on five of his favorite Hunter S. Thompson books. He gave five-star ratings to "Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72;" "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream;" "Hell's Angels;" "The Great Shark Hunt: Strange Tales from a Strange Time;" and "Generation of Swine: Tales of Shame and Degradation in the '80s."

The first three I've read, the second two I've read excerpts from, whether in Rolling Stone or by just grazing the collections.

In the 1970s, all of us budding writers and journalists wanted to write like Hunter Thompson but knew we never could. The first presidential campaign I really followed was in 1972 when I was 21 and a college drop-out and an escapee from the military draft. It was the first time I realized that these every-four-year contests actually meant something -- a great deal, it turns out. If Muskie or McGovern or any Democrat had won in 1972, history would have been wildly different. Nixon gave us his version of peace with honor at a great price in lives and national honor.

Hunter Thompson took his politics seriously. He was outraged by the spectacle and the hypocrisy he found at every turn. He diatribes against political operatives and Spiro Agnew and media stars were hilarious. The venom burst from the page. It was propelled by righteous anger and, as we all know from Woody Creek legend, drugs and alcohol. He cared about democracy and self-righteous bozos on the campaign trail ticked him off.

"Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" was outrageously funny. In "Hells Angels," he recorded the excesses of the Angels in vivid detail. He got his ass kicked for his trouble.

I wish we had the likes of Hunter Thompson on the 2008 campaign trail. I wonder what he would have made of the Democratic Party's stage-managed spectacle in Denver last week? Or the Repub gathering in St. Paul right now?

One other area where Hunter really showed his stuff was sports. Some of you may have read his coverage of the Kentucky Derby and various professional boxing matches. But he was a sports nut and during his last years wrote a weekly column for ESPN online. Very funny and occasionally outrageous, but not as sharp as his early stuff.

We miss him during this oddest of election seasons.

1 comment:

Wyoming Arts said...
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