This post is in the theme Influences on my own Creative Work. Read the first.
December 28, Lafayette, LA: I really did love me some Hunter S. Thompson as a teenager. I started, like most, with Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. But that work never really captured me. I didn’t really get it. I didn’t care about the drug stuff— I wasn’t titillated by the laundry list of pharamcological horrors in the trunk of the Red Shark. The subversion I loved most was the writing. And really, my favorite Hunter S. Thompson was the political reporting in The Great Shark Hunt. Anything with him on the campaign trail with Nixon and especially peeing next to him at a urinal.
Why did I love Hunter S. Thompson if I didn’t give two shits for drugs? His was some of the first writing I read that jumped and skittered across the page like a monologue. You read not just the voice, but the intonations of the voice. The emphases were never implied, they were always explicit. As a verbal storyteller from a long line of verbal stroytellers I longed to capture that in the written word. And here, Thompson could do it. I wanted to write that way.
I became, in my late teens, that worst kind of teeange copycat. I poured out paragraph after paragraph of Thompsonian prose. Truth was, in retrospect, I’m pretty sure all this gave me license for was to be sloppy and argue that I was never in need of a good edit. (I was arguing against editing deep into my early twenties.) What escaped me then is that while Thompson’s style may read like it was the first draft of a stream of consciousness ripped from the brain of a drug-addled crazyman, the truth is there was a lot of work put into this prose. I learned the put-a-lot-of-work-in thing far later.
Re-reading this book now I realized my strongest connection to it was the movie. And man, did Gilliam really capture this book.
But the book makes a lot more sense to me as an adult. I didn’t understand seventy percent of the drugs referenced in my first read. And I had no comprehension of the historical context. Now, I get it a bit more. This is the book you read after Electric Kool Aid Acid Test. After Wolfe warns you that the LSD experiment might not, in fact, shift a global consciousness into higher order thought, it is Thompson (who appears briefly in those pages) who shows us its corruption and utter failure. That America’s beating heart has moved from Haight Street to Paradise Boulevard and its population has gone from longhairs to crew cut drug cops.
Oh what the hell, take a weekend and re-read Fear and Loathing.