A eulogy of sorts

It took me a while to figure out who Hunter S Thompson was. My introduction to his work came via a stranger in a bar, who ever so rudely leant across from the table next to mine to inform me that the writer I was reading was, in his words, ‘quite shit’. “Read some Hunter S Thompson. You’ll thank me for it.” That insufferably rude individual, who will remain nameless (but who currently resides in Canada, due to a series of unfortunate events and then a couple of quite happy ones) went on to become my best friend in the world, simply by pushing the works of HST onto me in a state of uneven drunkenness on a sunny Wednesday afternoon in Manning Bar, at Sydney University. I’m not ashamed to admit that it was love at first sight (with the work of HST, not with my new-found friend). Ignoring all advice to the contrary, the first thing I read that was penned by Hunter was Better than Sex, a rambling diatribe on the state of Hunter’s world from behind a set of seriously rose-coloured eyeballs. It was obvious to me, even then, that his brain had been severely and irretrievably screwed by the drugs he said he had consumed. But there’s something to be said about a man who can do himself the kind of damage that Hunter did to himself, and yet still provide pin-sharp observations on the difficult fields of politics and sport, with a heady blend of counter-culture knife sharpening thrown in to keep the kids amused. It was the making of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas into a film that killed it for me, I think – like generations of well-taught school children who leafed through Chaucer looking for the rude bits, a new generation of readers (such a rare commodity in today’s world) have been left with a legacy that isn’t entirely accurate – they read through Hunter’s work, cheering inwardly to themselves whenever he mentions his dope du jour, and skimming over the parts where his serious messages dare to shine through. Holding a mirror to an America that wasn’t ready for it was always going to be hard – but when all that America expected him to do with that mirror was to start snuffling up lines of high-grade this or that… his task became impossible. I’m glad I never met the man – he would have hated me, I’m sure. It would have been poetic for this minor tribute to HST to be written under the influence of drugs, or booze, or both at once. I loved the man’s work, but I love my weekly pay cheque even more… But rest assured that there’s a bender waiting in the wings, and whether it’s declared or not, many bottles of Chivas will be raised to the heavens in weeks to come, many lines of crank and handfuls of prescription meds will be consumed with the tiniest of tears in the eye. The world is a poorer place again today, and whether you loved or hated HST, what he stood for, what he had to say or even the atrocities he visited upon himself and those around him, at least remember this – the man could write, and he took that gift with him to hell. Hunter, you miserable old prick – I hope one day to understand, but for now, I’ll just say this: Thanks for the words, man – they really meant a lot to me.

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