Hunter S. Thompson, Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die

Topics: Hunter S. Thompson, Rolling Stone, George McGovern Pages: 10 (3572 words) Published: May 22, 2006
Hunter S. Thompson's journalistic prose-poem Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas used a lost weekend in Las Vegas as a metaphor for America's season in hell, also known as drug induced generational destiny that was the 1960's. Thompson, called in by a national magazine to cover a cross-country motorcycle race, Thompson filed a postmortem on the ‘60's counterculture while reporting on his brain as though it were the dark side of the moon.

Like a belated sequal to Hells Angels (Another book written by Thompson) Fear and Loathing opens with two guys in Hawaiian shirts and a red convertable bombing, born to be wild, towards Nevada's neon abyss. "We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold" (Thompson 1) This is the line with which both the book and the movie begin. The search for the American dream will be three days in Vegas. Thompson's work not only has the guts to dramatize the writer's flashback to San Francisco, 1965, but also includes his opinion on the moment's drug induced sense of generational destiny. Despite the world famous title, Fear and Loathing was deeply unfashionable when it was released.

As a writer, Thompson is remembered most for his flamboyant and humorous style, with comically spun tales that were completely unbelievable to ordinary suburban folk. He provided a unique viewpoint to accurately describe the underlying reality at hand. Thompson almost always wrote in first person narrative, and his stories became so colorfully contrived that they easily slipped into the realm of fiction; however, the basic framework of the story he told was often true. Thompson's writing style has been widely imitated; his influence on American writers of the latter half of the 20th century is undeniable. In his writing, he cultivated the persona of a dangerously absurd, drug-crazed journalits bent on comic self-destruction. This character is named Raoul Duke, and while Thompson's fictional persona largely mirrored his actual life, he sometimes felt obligated to live up to the fictional self that he had created.

One of the biggest impacts on Thompson's life occurred on November 22, 1963 when Kennedy was shot. He felt it signaled a turn in society. In a letter to Semonin, he wrote; "This savage unbelievable killing, this monstrous stupidity, has guaranteed that my children and yours will be born in a shitrain." In another letter to William Kennedy, who was back in New York, he used the phrase "fear and loathing" to describe the way he felt after the murder. In March of 1990, Thompson recalls how he "was extremely jolted and angry and distraught" with the situation. Thompson proceeded to write a piece for the Observer but "It was so heavy the Observer refused to run it. It was never printed anywhere."

Thompson continued to write to the Observer, and the publication loved his fresh approach. What became Gonzo journalism started in 1964 as "impressionistic journalism", in Thompson's words. It took the time-honored tradition of objective journalism and gave it a 180. Thompson, like Tom Wolfe, felt that there was nothing more interesting than the reporter's perception of what was going on, not just the facts and figures.

He also began soliciting President Johnson to appoint himself Governer of Samoa. For awhile, amazingly enough, the Johnson administration remained in contact with Thompson. Thompson eventually withdrew his offer in outrage over the President's handling of Vietnam. The Thompsons moved back to San Francisco, where Thompson began trying to get on with The Nation and the magazine gave him the idea to write about the Hells Angels. His articles received much praise and led to his first publishing contract with Ballantine Books, who wanted him to write an entire book on the subject.

In early 1966 Thompson finished his book. To say it was a success would be an understatement. He spent a year with the motorcycle club, not as a writer...
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