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Commentary :: Media
Hunter S. Thompson: not with a whimper but a bang
02 Mar 2005
The late Hunter S. Thompson was the chronicler of our times.
Hunter S. Thompson: not with a whimper but a bang

By Holly Hand

“If there is, in fact, a Heaven and a Hell, all we know for sure is that Hell will be a viciously overcrowded version of Phoenix – a clean well-lighted place full of sunshine and bromides and fast cars where almost everybody seems vaguely happy, except for the ones who know in their hearts what is missing…. And being driven slowly and quietly into the kind of terminal craziness that comes with finally understanding that the one thing you want is not there…. Heaven is a bit harder to figure…. make it about 8-1 that Heaven will be a place where the swine will be sorted out at the gate and sent off like rats…. Maybe there is no Heaven….”
Hunter S. Thompson (Generation of Swine)

I’d say the odds are better than 8-1 that Hunter S. Thompson has now discovered for himself whether or not there is a Heaven. If there is and he’s there, it’s our loss that he can’t describe it for us, in his amazing gonzo style.
By the time this is published most people will have read obits of Hunter (all the journalists I knew referred to him as Hunter). He was the frequently drug-and-alcohol-fueled chronicler of our times. His books span over 30 years, from his breakthrough work Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream (1971) to Hey Rube: Blood Sport, the Bush Doctrine, and the Downward Spiral of Dumbness (2004).
Maybe by the time this is published we’ll know why Hunter took his own life. Or, maybe not. Either way, his end is our loss. Hunter loved the best of democracy and he hated hypocrisy, stupidity and greed. I want to yell, Hunter you should be here now; we need you more than ever! The US is in the worst shape since the Vietnam War and you aren’t here to continue to curse and write about it!
Hunter made his living chronicling the craziness of life, of politics and sports in particular. Although his work drove conservatives mad, Hunter could even alienate progressives with his over-the-top, acerbic style and sometimes degrading subject matter. His views were beyond politics. He said what he thought and could easily insult three presidents in one sentence: “Richard Nixon was a crook, Gerald Ford was a shameless fixer and Jimmy Carter was an awesome bungler.” And that was, for Hunter, being polite. Anyone who’s read Hunter’s numerous articles about Ronald Reagan and his buddies in government has experienced Hunter at his most enraged and outraged. Hunter also particularly despised televangelists, once beginning an article about them with the cry: “How long, O Lord, how long? Are these TV preachers all degenerates?”
Hunter was in many ways a contradiction: a wild partier who later retreated to his fortified compound outside Aspen, Colorado. He had love affairs with mood-altering substances, sports, politics and guns. Hunter’s work inspired both great admiration and great revulsion; it was actually possible when reading his stuff to feel both emotions simultaneously. At its worst, the writing could become self-indulgent, repetitive, overblown and nauseating. But usually Hunter’s work was exceptionally good, with deep truths swirling in a surreal style. And at his best, Hunter was the best.
Wherever he is now, Hunter is most likely giving holy hell to whoever is in charge. He will have a zillion suggestions for fixing up the place and replacing the people who run it with others, people better suited for job according to him. Hunter will probably be astonished by whoever else he finds there. Some of the people he’ll party with, but others he’ll be certain to loathe and he will tell them and anyone else who is interested, exactly why that is. As always, Hunter will be making many friends and many enemies.
Hunter, you could always find a bit of heaven in the most hellish situation as well as a bit of hell in a heavenly circumstance. Wherever you are, it really can’t be much different for you than it was here. So why did you have to leave us?

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