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Hunter S. Thompson
’There are no jokes,’ Muhammad Ali once told Hunter S. Thompson. ’The truth is the funniest joke of all.’ The author’s views on butterflies and bees go unrecorded but you can be sure that if Thompson flew it was with fury and if he stung you knew it.
This voluminous collection of the great Gonzo’s letters (subtitled The Brutal Odyssey Of An Out/aw journalist 79687 7976), the second in an envisaged trilogy of his correspondence, covers the period in which he produced his best work: Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas, On The Campaign Trail and The Great Shark Hunt. It’s essential reading for fans of the Doctor and a scream even if you have never pocketed a prescription.
A master of invective, inspired in equal parts by Samuel Johnson, the Beats and Jefferson Airplane, Hunter’s obsession was the Death Of The American Dream, later to become synonymous with his Fear And Loathing motif. He suspected foul play though and Richard Nixon was in the frame; Moriarty to his Sherlock.
’He’s not a conscious phoney', Thompson wrote in 1968 of the Republican candidate for the White House, subsequently labelling Tricky Dicky ’a nightmare of bullshit, intrigue and suspicion’. His obituary of the disgraced if not impeached former President, published in Rolling Stone in 1994, was bilious in extreme.
Those alive fared little better. His collaborator in Gonzotic crime Ralph Steadman was ’an illiterate bastard' (albeit in a playful sense) and Rolling Stone editor Jann Wenner was constantly pilloried for late payments and other misdemeanours. Yet the scabrous correspondent could be gentle too, taking time to reply to students and aspiring authors.
Perhaps the best missive here was fired off in 1971 to pal Tom Wolfe, highlights including: ’Here you are
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Mainly scabrous and bilious but occasionally gentle
running around fucking Italy in that filthy white suit at a thousand bucks a day laying all kinds of stone gibberish and honky bullshit on those poor whops who can’t tell the difference . . . while I’m out here in the middle of these goddamn frozen mountains in a death- battle with the taxman and nursing cheap wine while my dogs go hungry and my cars explode and a legion of nazi lawyers makes my life a goddamn Wobbly nightmare...’
Oh there’s more. ’You’re going to wish you were born a fucking Iguana! . . . I’ll have your goddamn femurs ground into bone splinters if you ever mention my name again in connection with that horrible ’new journalism' shuck you’re promoting . . . What else can I say? Except to warn you, once again, that the hammer of justice looms, and your filthy white suit will become a flaming shroud!’ Flame on. (Rodger Evans)
ROIiIANTIC COI/IFDY Jenny Colgan
A literary equivalent of a French Fancy
Debut novelists under the microscope. This issue: Elizabeth Woodcraft
First line test
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THE LIST 109