Hunter S Thompson worked on story about WTC explosives
"...He was indeed working on such a story, but it wasn't what killed him..."
Alexander Pope in a prose convertible
link to www.theglobeandmail.com
What mattered wasn't the 'gonzo' myth, writes PAUL WILLIAM ROBERTS, but Hunter S. Thompson's writing -- hilarious, honest and full of insight into power
By PAUL WILLIAM ROBERTS
Saturday, February 26, 2005 - Page F9
Hunter telephoned me on Feb. 19, the night before his death. He sounded scared. It wasn't always easy to understand what he said, particularly over the phone, he mumbled, yet when there was something he really wanted you to understand, you did. He'd been working on a story about the World Trade Center attacks and had stumbled across what he felt was hard evidence showing the towers had been brought down not by the airplanes that flew into them but by explosive charges set off in their foundations. Now he thought someone was out to stop him publishing it: "They're gonna make it look like suicide," he said. "I know how these bastards think . . ."
That's how I imagine a tribute to Hunter S. Thompson should begin. He was indeed working on such a story, but it wasn't what killed him. He exercised his own option to do that. As he said to more than one person, "I would feel real trapped in this life if I didn't know I could commit suicide at any time."
It is an ironic end for one who deplored above all things the media trend toward self-censorship, often citing Orwell on the subject. Now, he exists only in a dozen books and countless magazine and newspaper articles. Did the good doctor write himself into literary immortality? This is all that matters now.
I shared a dark suspicion that the life we were leading was a lost cause, that we were all actors, kidding ourselves along on a senseless odyssey. It was the tension between these two poles -- a restless idealism on the one hand and a sense of impending doom on the other -- that kept me going. -- Paul Kemp, in The Rum Diary, 1959 (published 1998)
These words, from Mr. Thompson's only novel, written when he was 22, are more than a prescient epitaph. They contain his own assessment of the qualities of character required of a great writer. The Hells Angels, in his first published book, put it differently:
"Well, we don't ask for nothin' but the truth. Like I say, there's not much good that you can write about us, but I don't see where that gives people the right to just make up stuff. . . . Ain't the truth bad enough for 'em?" -- Hells Angels, 1965
That tension between restless idealism and impending doom characterized the postwar generation in America, living in the shadow of nuclear apocalypse and the ignominy of the Vietnam War and Watergate, the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr.. It was during this era that the American Dream of a true republic came unravelled and it was briefly possible to see through its glittering façade to where the corporate éminences grises pressed buttons and pulled strings. The sight profoundly disturbed both those who saw it and those caught, as it were, in the act. The latter vowed such a thing would never occur again. The former, mostly, tried to forget what they had seen. Hunter Stockton Thompson never forgot what he had seen. It informed everything, and his addiction to honesty in the telling of it is what will grant his work timeless relevance. That we even know of his other addictions is merely an example of that honesty.
Too much is made of Mr. Thompson as the pioneer of "gonzo" journalism. The form -- the writer as a central character in what he writes about -- is as old as writing itself. Even the idea of writing through the prism of a psychotropic drug goes back to antiquity. Innovation matters little in literature -- indeed, it is ultimately a distraction. What counts is writing quality.
We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold. I remember saying something like, "I feel a bit lightheaded; maybe you should drive." And suddenly there was a terrible roar all around us and the sky was full of what looked like huge bats, all swooping and screeching and diving around the car, which was going about a hundred miles an hour with the top down to Las Vegas. And a voice was screaming: "Holy Jesus! What are these goddamn animals?"
Then it was quiet again. My attorney had taken his shirt off and was pouring beer on his chest, to facilitate the tanning process. "What the hell are you yelling about?" he muttered, staring up at the sun with his eyes closed and covered with wraparound Spanish sunglasses. "Never mind," I said. "It's your turn to drive." I hit the brakes and aimed the Great Red Shark toward the shoulder of the highway. No point mentioning those bats, I thought. The poor bastard will see them soon enough. -- Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, 1972
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