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December 14, 2010 - Meg Alexander
Using up the last of my vacation time before the end of the year, I spent much of the past few days on the couch, getting our money's worth from our Netflix membership. It was an uneventful, relaxing, enlightening experience. Yes, enlightening, for it was during this slothfulness that I stumbled across the truly, truly, mad, mad genius (?) of Hunter S. Thompson, the pioneer of gonzo journalism.

At this point in time, you, the reader, are likely thinking one of two thoughts: "Who the heck is Hunter S. Thompson and what the devil does 'gonzo' mean?" or "How the heck did she not know who Hunter S. Thompson is and what is this world coming to?"

Let's assume for the purpose of this blog that you, the reader, share my ignorance, in which case I will gladly give you a brief synopsis, courtesy of Wikipedia: "Hunter S. Thompson was an American journalist and author, most famous for his works Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72. He is credited as the creator of Gonzo journalism, a style of reporting where reporters involve themselves in the action to such a degree that they become central figures of their stories.

"... The term "'Gonzo' was first used in connection with Hunter S. Thompson by The Boston Globe magazine editor Bill Cardoso in 1970. He described Thompson's "The Kentucky Derby Is Decadent and Depraved," which was written for the June 1970 Scanlan's Monthly, as 'pure Gonzo journalism.'

"... Thompson based his style on William Faulkner's idea that 'fiction is often the best fact.' While the things that Thompson wrote about are basically true, he used satirical devices to drive his points home. He often wrote about recreational drugs and alcohol use which added additional subjective flair to his reporting."

Regardless of your take on him and his mad methods, there’s no doubt Thompson was a fascinating character in and of himself and one hell of a writer. For an easy intro, I strongly recommend the documentary “Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson.” A fascinating followup is “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” starring Johnny Depp and Benicio del Toro, in which Depp freaking nails Thompson. Not as good, but interesting nonetheless, was the documentary, “Buy the Ticket, Take the Ride,” also about Thompson. Not to be forgotten, wrap it all up with Bill Murray playing Thompson in “Where the Buffalo Roam.”

Having watched everything readily available on the man, I’ve also added his books to my Amazon wishlist and I’m off to the library to see what’s available.


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