Hunter Thompson at 79

Hunter S. Thompson, dead today in 2005.

A myth. June 24, 2010. I went to the Pollard Memorial Library in Lowell, Massachusetts to get Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. But it was checked out. Stay on topic. Look for other books by Hunter Thompson. What do we have here? The Rum Diary. A book of letters. Fear & Loathing in America: The Brutal Odyssey of an Outlaw Journalist. Is there a market for letters? Do people read this sort of thing?

It doesn’t matter. It was thick but I picked it up. And read it twice.

I didn’t know much about Doktor Thompson at the time. I knew there was a movie version of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. I knew it was about drugs. Right? Close enough.

The book of letters was surprising because they appeared to be the output of Serious Thinking. Often abusive, sometimes arbitrary, but almost always the result of some kind of intelligent being. I’m afraid that sounds like some kind of weak praise. But here we are. It’s not what I anticipated.

Imagine working for a large corporation, bathed in fluorescent lights and packed in gray cubicle walls. And trying somewhat desperately to fit in because… that’s what you do. Right? Go Along to Get Along. And then unwittingly you pick up this book that tears off the top of your head like a bottle opener tearing into a cap. I turned into a bit of a pit bull after that. I don’t think all of the results were good, but some of them were. Overall I don’t regret it.

I’m glad I didn’t find Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas first. I wouldn’t have taken the good doktor seriously. It would have been just another screwaround. But dig into the letters—Fear and Loathing in America, which is volume 2, and then The Proud Highway, volume 1—and it makes sense. Plus Fear and Loathing: on the Campaign Trail ’72. Plus the collection of journalism, The Great Shark Hunt. Plus Hell’s Angels. That’s a better way to approach it.

And then go for Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. It makes more sense. Approached later in the cycle, it seems more like an epitaph of a generation and less like a big haha party.

We can find inspiration in strange places. What does an engineer need with HST? I don’t know. Start with lies and end with truths. Package fact as fiction and fiction as fact. You can describe a thing from the outside or you can dive in and explain how the thing works as you interfere with it. Taste success and become fat and lazy and useless. Not all the lessons learned are how to; some are how not to.

There he goes. One of God’s own prototypes. A high-powered mutant of some kind never even considered for mass production. Too weird to live, and too rare to die.

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