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On Hunter S. Thompson

9:04 AM, Oct 20, 2011 • By DANIEL HALPER
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Matt Labash reviews Fear and Loathing at Rolling Stone: The Essential Writing of Hunter S. Thompson in the Wall Street Journal:

It has been six years since Hunter S. Thompson wrote his wife a note titled "Football Season Is Over." Six years since he sat down in front of his Selectric typewriter at the kitchen counter and put a .45 slug through his brain stem. Six years of legacy-buffing necrophilia.

For fans of the Good Doctor of Journalism, the man Tom Wolfe fairly called "the great comic writer of the 20th century," this is not an intolerable development, even if the eulogizing has long-since passed the point of saturation. Gonzophilia is an industry. Thompson's cigarette-filter-and-safari-hat get-up is now a popular Halloween costume. Biographies roll off the line. His widow has turned "The Gonzo Way" into a self-help book and an online store. His literary executor, the omnipresent historian Douglas Brinkley, holds "Gonzo Journalism Workshops" at the Norman Mailer Center and will be dropping a third voluminous brick of Thompson letters next summer. If Thompson left behind so much as a grocery list (10 grapefruits, 3 bottles of Chivas . . .), odds are even that it will get slapped between hardcovers.

His long-unpublished and surprisingly good novel, "The Rum Diary" (written in the 1960s, finally released in 1999), will soon hit the big screen. Which will be a nice companion to the three Thompson documentaries that have been released since his death. One of them, "Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson," features his cinematic doppelgänger Johnny Depp (star of both "The Rum Diary" and the 1998 adaptation of "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas") sitting at a bar and reading aloud from Thompson's work while theatrically waving a gun in the air. The better, one suspects, to ward off the scores of other celebrity sycophants who transparently hope that telling tales of playing shotgun golf or getting blitzed with the man who once walked point among New Journalism's giants will see his anarchic cool rub off on them.

Four years ago, Thompson's long-time editor and part-time nemesis, Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner, co-edited "Gonzo," a definitive oral biography that saw family, friends and colleagues recounting the raw particulars of the life. It revealed everything from Thompson amusing himself by blowing up a Jeep Wagoneer with a "half a case of Dupont [high explosive], twenty-five pounds of black powder, and five gallons of gasoline" to how he once pranked his old pal Jack Nicholson by firing live rounds off outside his house, blasting sounds of screaming animals through loud speakers and leaving a bloody elk's heart on his doorstep—setting off fears of "another Mansonesque slaughter." Now Mr. Wenner has edited "Fear and Loathing at Rolling Stone: The Essential Writing of Hunter S. Thompson."

Whole thing here.

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