PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Books

Doctor, Rest in Peace: Dr. Hunter S. Thompson 1937-2005

Glenn Michael McDonald

That shit will get you, one way or another.

Like approximately two billion other restless young men with a facility for language, I adopted Hunter S. Thompson as my personal hero in high school. There is no doubt in my mind that the man was a Genius (HST liked to capitalize random words, too.) He had a singular talent for putting specific words in a specific order to maximum effect. This is no mean feat. He had a gift; an intuitive sense for the English language that cannot be learned, cannot be dissected, and cannot (I found out the hard way) be aped.

The good doctor also had a reputation for excess with drugs and booze, and that's understating the matter. His legacy, as an author and a pop culture icon, is forever linked with this aspect of his life, for good or for ill. He ran with the idea that getting high could be a lifestyle; that choosing to jam your head with any and all chemicals was a legitimate approach to existence in These Foul Years.

Thompson taught me everything I think I know about savagery and beauty and freedom in extemporaneous writing. He taught me that there are many fools out there, and that they will try to kill your spirit. He was a master of style and tone in cultural criticism, and he did not apologize. Ever. Hunter in the pantheon. He's having a mint julep right now with Mark Twain. Guaranteed.

CNN.com reports: "On February 20, Dr. Hunter S. Thompson took his life with a gunshot to the head at his fortified compound in Woody Creek, Colorado," said a statement issued by Thompson's son, Juan Thompson, to the Aspen Daily News.

Goddammit.

+ + +

When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.
-- HST

The first HST book I read was one of his more obscure mid-period ones, The Curse of Lono, published in 1983. It was kind of a lame-ass story, about going to Hawaii to cover a marathon and instead getting spun out and strung out with the local freaks. Typical of HST's style at the time, the book was sloppy, meandering, and occasionally incandescent. (I have that perspective now, of course. At the time it was all brilliant, beginning to end.)

After that I read Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72 (1972). Then Hell's Angels (1967). I came into Thompson ass-backwards, in what is probably the very worst way you can approach his output. His early stuff is too straight. His middle-period work is spotty and indulgent. His last few books -- and his recent dispatches for Rolling Stone and ESPN.com -- are basically incoherent.

But he did write one masterpiece, of course, and that is Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream. The book begins like this:

We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold. I remember saying something like "I feel a bit lightheaded; maybe you should drive�" And suddenly there was a terrible roar all around us and the sky was full of what looked like huge bats, all swooping and screeching and diving around the car, which was going about a hundred miles an hour with the top down to Las Vegas. And a voice was screaming: "Holy Jesus! What are these goddamn animals?"

So there you go. A juggernaut of a first line, and the rest of the book just gets better. This was HST at his peak, writing in that sublime place just after the drugs kick in, and just before the horror show starts -- a cockeyed lucidity that he managed to maintain for about 200 pages. Thompson never again shined so brightly.

+ + +

And now he's dead, having shot himself in the head with one of the many guns he kept around for Bad Craziness. Ah, hell. One of Thompson's most famous quotes is: "I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they've always worked for me."

If you say so, Doc.

You know, even after I got sober a few years ago, I always pulled for Thompson -- the one guy who took drugs and alcohol to the extreme, proclaimed it a "lifestyle," and made it work. It's a tough day, and I am thinking to myself: That shit will get you, one way or another. It always wins.

OK, HST. Rest in peace.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.

Film

15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.

Music

Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.

Music

Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.

Music

Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.

Music

Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.

Music

Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.

Film

The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.

Music

British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.

Film

Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.

Music

​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.

Music

The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.

Music

Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.

Television

How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.

Music

Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.

Music

CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.

Music

Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.

Music

While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.