I love Hunter S. Thompson, and we are much poorer without him (he committed suicide in 2005). His rants; his persona, his hijinks and General Outlook on Life are much needed in this day and age. Hari Kunzru wrote that “the true voice of Thompson is revealed to be that of American moralist … one who often makes himself ugly to expose the ugliness he sees around him.”
And that this is true. Hunter S. Thompson deals in irony and hyperbole. He speaks in a language that really not that many Americans “get”. And he is right far more often than anyone would like to admit.
For example, on September 12th, 2001, he writes that “…we are At War now – with somebody – and we will stay At War with that strange and mysterious Enemy for the rest of our lives. It will be a Religious War, a sort of Christian Jihad, fuelled by religious hatred and led by merciless fanatics on both sides. It will be guerrilla warfare on a global scale, with no front lines and no identifiable enemy…” (page 90). This is prescient.
Things get so bad that Thompson even wishes for Nixon back; we live in the time of the Big Darkness. And it is a Big Deal when Hunter S. Thompson thinks that today is worse then the ’70s. “They where doing terrible things, but at least they had the decency to deny it”is the gist of what he says.
Most of this book is about sports – mostly football and basketball, and one good rant about baseball (something about eliminating the picture and creating a mad scramble for bases) – and gambling, but interspersed is the usual Hunter S. Thompsonisms of politics, hijinks, drugs, and ominous hints and jokes.
It’s typical Thompson. But keep in mind that these are some of the last things he ever wrote. Hey Rude is actually rather sad. Hunter was a creature of the ’60s, and ’70s…the harsh era of neoliberalism only highlights the failure of ’60’s counterculture. So that’s sad. It’s sad to read the work of an ageing rebel about a year out from his suicide.
But it’s sad that Hunter’s political insights – he was a First Class American political observer – have gone unacknowledged. His views, often dismissed as hyperbole. And after living through Vietnam to see the whole gruesome thing repeated in Afghanistan and Iraq must have been crushing.
There is an old adage in left leaning philosophy/sociology that you must “speak Truth to power”. This comes close to capturing the magic of Thompson; it’s scary to see it so ineffective.
Thompson is laugh-out-loud funny; he walks a thin line between autobiography, politics, comedy, and sheer non-sensical farce.
It’s brilliant and necessary and I am so scared that he’s gone now…