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Joe Klein reviews a new biography of Hunter Thompson by Jann Wenner and Corey Seymour

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DeepModem Mom Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Nov-17-07 09:57 PM
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Joe Klein reviews a new biography of Hunter Thompson by Jann Wenner and Corey Seymour
NYT: Forever Weird
By JOE KLEIN
Published: November 18, 2007

GONZO
The Life of Hunter S. Thompson.
By Jann S. Wenner and Corey Seymour

On July 2, 1974, I started work as deputy Washington bureau chief for Rolling Stone magazine. My unlikely boss was Richard Goodwin, the former Kennedy speechwriter, who invited me to join him in temporary residence at Ethel Kennedys home in McLean, Va. (the owner was in Hyannis for the summer). On July 3, Hunter Thompson joined us. Much of what ensued that holiday weekend is lost in the mists of history and a fog of controlled substances. There were extensive conversations about the viability of renting a truck, filling it with rats and dumping them on the White House lawn. There was also an effort to remove all the Andy Williams songs from the Kennedy jukebox and replace them with Otis Redding. But mostly I remember having a marathon conversation with Hunter about books and writers, settling finally on Joseph Conrads exhortation in Lord Jim: In the destructive element immerse!

This was, no surprise, one of Hunters favorite lines, and it led him into an astonishingly candid assessment of his own career, which was then at its peak. He had published his two brilliant Fear and Loathing books, and he was worried about what came next. He didnt want to become a dull parody of himself but feared he lacked the gumption to jump the gravy train. I asked if hed ever thought about stowing the psychedelic pyrotechnics his gonzo journalism and sitting down and writing a serious, straight-ahead novel. Well, of course he had. But, he said, Without that, and he glanced over at the satchel in which he carried his array of vegetation and chemicals, Id have the brain of a second-rate accountant.

Hunter Thompson was always much more, and sometimes a bit less, than the sum of his ribald public persona. In compiling this oral history, Jann Wenner and Corey Seymour could easily have succumbed to the same temptation that Hunter did: to celebrate the myth, to recount a numbing parade of hilarious, drug-addled Hunter stories, and to miss the man. Happily, they have produced a rigorous and honest piece of work. Gonzo is a wonderfully entertaining chronicle of Hunters wild ride, but it is also a detailed, painful account of his self-destructive immersions; the brutality he visited upon his wife, Sandy; and the anguish of a life that veered from inspired performance art to ruinous solipsism. Its especially good to be reminded that Wenner, in addition to being a successful media mogul and perpetual gossip item, has been a journalist of real distinction, with the ability to find talented editors like Seymour, who, I assume, did most of the actual cutting and pasting to create the books unflagging pace from interviews with 112 sources, ranging from Jimmy Carter to Johnny Depp. It was Wenners patience and indulgence that enabled Thompson to produce his very best work; Wenners vision made Rolling Stone, in the early 1970s, one of the most exciting publications in American history.

Hunter Thompson was born in Louisville, Ky., in 1937 and, from adolescence on, seemed intent on becoming a classic American Literary Character, part of the outlaw slipstream that produced Whitman, Twain, Hemingway, Guthrie, Mailer and Kerouac. This might have been a staggeringly banal career choice theres a testosterone-addled, troublemaking puer aeternus spewing fountains of self-absorbed gush in every high school but Thompson actually turned out to have a distinctly American genius for comic hyperbole. He was the son of an insurance salesman who died when Hunter was in high school and an alcoholic mother who didnt have a prayer of controlling her wild child. He was antsy, violent, a lover of books and guns, a member of the prestigious Athenaeum Literary Association in Louisville and of a street gang of pranksters, most of whom were sons of prominent families. In his senior year of high school, Thompson was arrested with two others after one in his group stole a mans wallet this, after other scrapes with the law and thrown in jail. Douglas Brinkley, Thompsons literary executor, recalled: Hunter wrote his mother these very philosophical letters from behind bars. ... The buddies that he was with ... were waltzing because they knew the judge, ... he was the poor kid on the other side of the railroad tracks with no dad. The game was fixed. The judge gave Thompson a choice of prison or the military; he chose the Air Force. One senses that Hunter saw the experience mostly as grist for his legend. No doubt it helped solidify his politics, such as they were a blithe populist libertarianism, unencumbered by doctrine....

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/18/books/review/Klein-t....
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muleboy303 Donating Member (84 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Nov-17-07 10:45 PM
Response to Original message
1. NYT couldn't get someone else to write the review?
Joe Klein gives an adequate review of the book, but only after
forcing the reader to endure his reminiscing, and this
sentence: 

"Hunter Thompson was always much more, and sometimes a
bit less, than the sum of his ribald public persona."

howinthehell can anything be "always much more, AND
sometimes a bit less" ? 

hey Joe, are you so damn big that you don't bother to
proofread your(?) work before sending it to the NEW YORK
TIMES? 
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DeepModem Mom Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Nov-17-07 10:55 PM
Response to Reply #1
2. This seems briefer than the usual review; I'm wondering if there'll be another review...
Edited on Sat Nov-17-07 11:05 PM by DeepModem Mom
by someone else elsewhere in the NYT.

Welcome to DU, muleboy!!!
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muleboy303 Donating Member (84 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Nov-18-07 07:06 PM
Response to Reply #2
3. many thanks DMM
'tis good to be here... finally :)
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