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Hunter S. Thompson

"And that, I think, was the handle---that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn't need that. Our energy would simply prevail. 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."

A consummate Fitzgerald fan, Hunter S. Thompson, a.k.a the Great Gonzo, stands as the journalist of the Me decade. Those who consider his prose too whacked-out and self-indulgent to be of any merit should consider the times when he was writing. In an era when Democrats unleashed angry cops on protestors and a majority of citizens voted for Nixon not once but twice -- well, who in that age was thinking clearly?

Although HST clearly had some trouble with deadlines, who can deny the man's talent? Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72 is so rich with wit and insight that it puts our domesticated journalistic establishment to shame. Fear and Loathing: In Las Vegas is the great travelogue of the 1970s (as The Grapes of Wrath was to the 1930s and On the Road was to the 1950s), a riveting chronicle of the madness inherent to a decadent gambling paradise in the midst of a scorching desert. And the Saga of a Desperate Southern Gentleman, a collection of the young Hunter's letters, is an insightful portrait of the Gonzo as a young man.

Nowadays, when our news and political coverage comes so sanitized, test-marketed, focus-group-tested, and bland, the image of Dr. Thompson sending drunken hecklers after Edmund Muskie, enjoying a Two Minutes Hate with some Young Nixon supporters, or avoiding gargantuan bats with his attorney in the Nevada desert, is a guilty pleasure.

Terry Gilliam, creator of Brazil and Time Bandits, directed a film version of Fear and Loathing: In Las Vegas, with Johnny Depp as the good Doctor and Benicio del Toro as his loyal attorney. It got panned by the critics, but the nexus of Gonzo, Python, Ed Wood, and Fenster was a perfect match for me. For what it's worth, I thought it was as excellent a movie as you could make out of such a weird, wild book.

R.I.P. HST 1937-2005.

Go Gonzo.

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