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  • 12:39:31 pm
  • Tuesday
  • 26 September 2023

Dr. Duke Swallows a Shotgun: How The Gonzo Pirate Will Report Back on Death

Hunter S Thompson was the most unique and singularly chaotic voices in American journalism. He leaves behind not only a family and a stunning body of work, but also a legacy of revolution inside the medium he’d redefine.

Slipping off into the ether usually means some fall to irrelevance, some sort of disappearing act from significance to nothing—never accounted for, never recovered—and who’d try? Who cares?

I could type and print and slip off reams of paper and ink and fall into the ether on a dime without notice or care—I’m not Hunter Thompson. Hunter Thompson though, inhaled ether prodigiously, ingesting it stuffed up his nose, carrying it to his lungs and his brain. He ate it and ate it and ate it. Hunter Thompson owned ether, consumed it. He owned irrelevance, he consumed it. Gonzo journalism was Method acting—Hunter was Marlon Brando. Gonzo journalism was punk rock—Hunter was Johnny Ramone. Gonzo journalism was a final great change of whole cloth in the act of a modern medium.

One has to wonder how badly Hunter wanted to write what it felt like to take some of his beloved cold steel gunmetal and press it against his old scraggly skin, what the alloys or what-have-you reacted to as they squee-geed against various chemicals seeping and poring and wafting from his face. He loved guns and he loved shooting them. One has to wonder how much he loved guns then, how much he loved shooting guns then, how much he treasured being able to take the last exit off himself before Vegas, get away. “We can’t stay here—this is BAT country.” I bet he wanted to shoot himself and then report back on it, like he was too beholden to his always-regenerative craft than he was to any pain he had. But he couldn’t—and he knew it—which speaks worlds to that kind of pain he had. It was bigger than the craft.

I read Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas at the same single second I was precisely supposed to, no seconds longer, no seconds earlier. I remember a shorter tale he recalled in a collected works in which he claimed to have grabbed a sack of lye and thrown it at someone. That was it.

We all want creativity, we all want some sort of mellifluous expurgation of new thought, new ideas. Hunter S Thompson never paused from that. His every belched thought grabbed the ankle off the leg of the body of the journalistic ideal and threw it forward, ushering it step upon step: The Rum Diaries—step—Fear and Loathing in Washington—step—Hey, Rube—step—Generation Swine—step. He was able to make a journalist part of the story, to make himself and his collection of the story part of how the story was to be reported. Nothing about the experience of reporting was left unturned: inaccuracies, drugs, fucking, sleep, crime, guns, guns, guns. I hear they made a movie about it.

There’s a passage in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, a book that literally turned my brain over in my head, making me, for the first time want to be elbow deep in drugs and irresponsibility—something I was too pussy to actually ever do. More importantly, it made me want to create, but to try, in creating, at least something new and fucking different. Don’t just talk, you see. Mumble...

“There was no point in fighting—on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave. So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark—the place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.”

Hunter Thompson was 67, born in 1937 and died in Aspen, CO.

Timothy Rogan
Tuesday, 22 February 2005

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Tweed Magazine content report:
2023-09-26 12:39:31
Nirvana, Tegan and Sara, Iran, Krist Novoselic, Everloving Records, Iraq, Mates of State, Brooklyn, Denali, Krist Novoselic, End report.