Monday, September 13, 2021

Hunter S Thompson and his stately pleasure dome

I can recite the opening to Kublai Khan from memory, not because I've been a Coleridge scholar or anything, (one of my very best friends is a genuine Coleridge scholar, and I've always been intensely jealous that she gets to say that), but because Hunter S Thompson once used it in an essay to show the power and strength of words. 

Thompson was properly awestruck by those words, and when he wasn't busy getting sucked in by all the drugs and sports and feral hogs of humanity, he really tried to reach those heights.

If Hunter is your favourite writer when you're 21, I totally understand. And if he's still your favourite writer when you're 39, I'm totally judging you. But there is a time in your life when you need someone like Hunter in it.

He was up there for me in my early 20s, in the usual obnoxious manner. Getting that fucked up on mind-altering chemical, all of the time, and coming back with pages of beautiful writing is a romantic dream for all young fools. It's a drive that goes back centuries, across all cultures.

We may not have frilly-shirted poets of the most dreamy deposition, we had a crude, rude and incredibly fucked up baldie who wrote up politics and sports and Las vegas, and it was hard and rambling and deeply, deeply insightful about the rotten heart of America.

How could you not fall for that kind of psychotropic bravado? Beyond the philophy of it all, it just looked like so much fun, even when it all got really, really messy. We all have nights like that, and you've done well if you've come through it. 

He also ruined a lot of journalists, purely by example. Putting himself at the centre of his stories only worked because he was a thick, powerful writer.  He would brag of talking football with Richard Nixon or talk about some run-off election in Bumfuck, Idaho, and make it all sound like the sexiest fucking thing ever.

Entire generations of journos want to be him, and don't have that huge talent, and just look like dicks. Hunter could be a dick too, with that big fucking mouth, and was never the best of role models, but he looked like a  hell of a guy to go on a road trip with, and teach the dorks about poetry.

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