Before getting to the Talk of our Town, we need to note Sunday’s death of Hunter S. Thompson, one of the more renowned members the tribe that makes its living with words.
We’ll save the big picture stuff for others. Here’s what readers need to know about Hunter Thompson:
A big part of a generation of writers is in the business today because of Thompson.
At first, some of us thought it would just be a major giggle to be that wasted and get paid to write. Most of us quickly discovered a couple of things:
n Writing while massively impaired ” or even writing about being that ripped ” is hard work, and rare talent is required to do it well. Thompson had that talent.
n As fun as “gonzo” journalism sounds ” telling a version of the truth by not just observing, but living, a story ” it’s also hard work. The other truth about gonzo is it’s darned hard to make it work on a beat. Writing a story about snakes coming out a county commissioner’s ears during a meeting would be a great hoot, but doing the follow-up would be tough.
Thompson’s stuff could be brilliant, or almost unreadable. But the good stuff, the stories about interviewing Muhammad Ali in Vegas or the tales of an itinerant freelancer paupering his way around South America, gets a reader’s attention. Which is what good writing is supposed to do.
In that spirit, then, we suppose that somewhere Thompson is snorting at the kid-glove treatment of his death, especially by the TV types, virtually all of whom called his apparent suicide a “self-inflicted gunshot wound.”
That mush-mouthed approach isn’t what Raoul Duke would have called it, so we prefer to think he took the Hemingway out of this world.
And that world is a little different because Thompson was in it. We hope the deadlines are a little softer wherever he is now.