Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson committed suicide yesterday.
I am sad to admit that I’ve only read one book of his, Generation of Swine, but I thoroughly enjoyed it and recommend it. It’s a series of his newspaper articles from the mid-80s, in which the Iran-Contra affair unfolds before his eyes. Thompson describes the events with glee, giddily excited at the fact that Reagan and his henchmen are going to go down in flames. The glee then turns to shock and horror as everyone involved walks away unscathed, and the execrable Oliver North emerges a “hero”. If an event can shake up someone like Hunter S. Thompson, you know it’s serious.
Unfortunately, whenever I tried to find out more about Thompson and his work, people I spoke with only wanted to let me know how crazy he was and marvel at the whole guns, booze, and drugs persona. I was more interested in his actual journalism and couldn’t find people to discuss that aspect.
Like most icons, I’m somewhat more familiar with the characters that have been based on him — Uncle Duke in Doonesbury and Spider Jerusalem in Transmetropolitan — than I am with the actual person. In the case of the latter character, I never quite got into Transmetropolitan because firstly, it seemed like it was more interested in “shocking” me than telling a story and second, if I wanted to read Thompson, I was more interested in reading Thompson, not Warren Ellis’ parody/homage to Thompson.
I know, I’m rambling and not saying much. Blame the cold medicine. I feel bad, though, because I know we’ve lost someone important, and because I know I am tragically unaware of exactly how important he was. In this age of a media that does little more than reprint press releases and a citizenry that thinks the first amendment “goes too far,” we can’t afford to lose any more people like Hunter S. Thompson.
I’ll let others fire guns in the air and pour libations of alcohol to him. I’m gonna head out to the library.