Here is an honest, open and reasonably sober Hunter S Thompson, who seems to really click with the interviewer, making for the most glorious interview. It is a joy to see him categorize and examine his writing. He is immensely self aware and thoughtful.
“The most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in, shockproof, shit detector” wrote Hemmingway. Hunter was searching around for the quote, and when he did, it set off a waterfall of introspective brilliance.
Hearing that Hunter was in the Watergate on The Night any journo would want to be there, was hardly surprising: Hunter seemed to be a nexus for everything that was important, weird and interesting. He claims to hate writing – which is not a shock, as Hunter seemed to be a Liver of Life primarily, and that is what made his gonzo writing so vibrant and vital. He was honest, brutal, intelligent and inventive. The measured thoughtfulness is not something I have observed in interviews with him before – he was drunker, wilder and didn’t give a damn. Here he cares and it shows.
In fact Hunter comes across as a man who cares very much about quite a few things. This is a younger Hunter before the weight of being Hunter got quite so heavy, I suspect.
Gonzo is what happens when a writer reports. Reporting creatively, imaginatively – people didn’t understand when he was putting them on, as the interviewer laughs – and that is a problem. Gonzo is not there for serious information, but more looking at current events both wider and more inward looking, through the lens of creation. Hunter describes himself as a political junkie, and I see that – he thrives on tension and conflict, so he says, and I am left wondering if it is the conflict of politics that attracted him more than anything else.
Hunter, to me, properly belongs with the beat poets, which is where I categorize gonzo. His personality writ large across his writing, freeform jazz with words, except Hunter removed beat from it’s usual personal subject matter, and instead wrote about the world around him and current affairs. It was a tightrope act of self discipline, where he made himself write. I never get tired of reading Hunter.
The interviewer touches on the drug culture in a way that is devoid of judgement, he is interested in Hunter, not in censuring Hunter. This is what makes this interaction between the older Harrison Salisbury and the younger Hunter, so productive and interesting.
If you are going to hurt somebody, you might as well hurt the right people, says our hero and I can’t help but agree. Hunter was a flawed man, just as we all are, but he knew it, and was willing to suffer the consequences of his actions. The world is so much blander without him.
The words he wrote for his friend, in Fear and Loathing, are just as apt for Hunter himself
One of God’s own prototypes. A high-powered mutant of some kind never even considered for mass production. Too weird to live, and too rare to die.