I found out about Hunter S. Thompson's suicide reading an article on it in the New York Post over the shoulder of some guy on the subway this morning. My reaction? Something like "Finally." Not like "Finally, at last that jerk is dead" but "So he finally died?" To have any familiarity at all with the life of, the legends that sorrounded Dr. Thompson was to be aware of his constant cheating of death through excessive chemical indulgences and the wild behavior that accompanies such activities and the anticipation of Thompson eventually dying some gory or agonizing death that comes with that . . . so at last it has happened, the end of Hunter S. Thompson . . . not too different from the "at last it has happened" death of William S. Burroughs eight years ago. These counter-culture anti-heroes, we just sit around waiting for them to do something wild again or to die so we can remember the old crazy stuff. Crazy stuff that's plenty older than me.
I don't want to be too serious at all, but I'm going to have to say that reading "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" during or after my senior year of high school (along with "Cat's Cradle) was part of a pivotal moment in my life, a pivotal moment in all sorts of people's life, a graduating from High School ideas to College ideas and readiness to approach intellectual adulthood. Not that Fear and Loathing is incredible literature, but there's something to it, something which I'm utterly failing to put my finger on right now. But if you read Fear and Loathing in your late teens or even your early twenties, you know what I'm talking about . . . if anything, the book serves to show you what else books can be besides fiction or non-fiction.
I wonder what will happen to Uncle Duke in Doonesbury now. (Zonker's uncle, not mine.)
Sometime in the last year I saw Thompson on Conan O'Brien. It clarifed a great many things for me. For some reason, until Conan, I couldn't imagine Thompson as anything but a normal guy with sunglasses who wrote crazy "true" stories . . . but seeing him "alive" and "speaking", I was immediately impressed that he could type, let alone write.
Years ago I read this "article" Thompson wrote for Time magazine "about" his experiences in Hollywood as Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas was being filmed. I remember really liking it, possibly mostly because of its title, "Doomed Love at the Taco Stand". I haven't reread it yet, but I was able to dig it up out of the internet.
Update I've been thinking about HST a little and my mood has shifted from "I knew this would happen" from "bummed." He was a great American eccentric, something our cultural landscape could use a lot more of, and I'll miss Thompson occasionally popping up in the news for having, say, freaked out at a book signing or blown up something real big at his compound (sorry, no link for blowing stuff up, not that one couldn't be found with some digging).
Also, why is it that all America's macho writers of some talent can only be killed by themselves? Someone out there has to be trying to write a Hemingway/Thompson comparison piece, I can feel it.