I can assure you I was the only 12 year old in my Catholic grammar school who ever toted a copy of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas to class. For this, I blame not only my insatiable need for attention, but also my older brother, ten years my senior and unusually attentive to his young sister’s cultural development. He had me on a diet of Hunter S. Thompson, Rolling Stone magazine, Leo Kottke, Mott the Hoople, and the films of Akira Kurasawa before I was in my teens.
As an adolescent I didn’t understand most of Thompson’s opus, but something about the tone of it really appealed to me. He had a Venus in Gemini’s rapier way with language ( it didn’t hurt that his Venus exactly conjoined my natal Moon; he was the funny valentine of my Gemini heart), and his sheer delight in wrestling words to the ground made me want to jump up and down and applaud wildly.
Thirty years later, I had more or less forgotten about Thompson until I read his merry screed against the Bush administration, published just a few days before the election. This time I did jump up and down and clap, and made sure to forward the link to my brother with the subject line, “Kerry gets the Gonzo vote!” Good times.
Nobody seems to know why Hunter S. Thompson killed himself on Sunday. I couldn’t sleep and got up to watch TV in the middle of the night, and there was the news: Hunter S. Thompson, mortal gunshot wound… I was so stunned that my initial response was, “But… is he alive?” Because geez, he was not that old, and his writing was vibrant, and he seemed utterly untamed and full of piss as ever. My 4 am mind simply couldn’t wrap itself around the twin concepts of “Hunter S. Thompson” and “mortal.” It’s not having much more luck two days later and wide awake.