June 22nd, 2008 at 2:52 pm

“But don’t forget – The Scum Also Rises.” – Hunter S. Thompson

Gonzo Life of Hunter S. Thompson

There are enough texts examining and illuminating the myth of that great social and literary pyrotechnic Hunter S. Thompson, but an oral biography from the people who were closest to him seemed like a worthwhile read.

Gonzo: The Life of Hunter S. Thompson is a complete biography through Thompson’s zany life that manages to reveal a few intriguing tidbits about the man behind the legend. Hunter’s first wife, Sandy (now Sondi), had two abortions before their son Juan was born. After Juan was born she got pregnant five times but never came to term. There’s something darkly captivating about the potential of HST having 8 kids and the fact that nature did not let it happen.

A younger brother of Hunter was gay and died of AIDS. Why didn’t he write about this?

Aspen Sheriff and long-time friend of Hunter, Bob Braudis, relates a story about receiving a call from Hunter when one of Hunter’s girlfriend-assistants was unconscious on the kitchen floor and unresponsive. On the way to the hospital she stopped breathing. She survived, got better, and “went back to Cincinnati or wherever she came from.” Not everyone can, nor should, do drugs like Hunter S. Thompson. But how different would things have been had HST been in the news for killing a girl…it certainly would have tainted the Myth.

Beyond these few and far between, most of the book is not very enlightening for the ordained disciples of HST: he was a drug addict, he was an alcoholic, he was very smart, and he was a very good writer who absolutely failed to live up to his potential as a very, very good writer. What is also made very clear is that Thompson was certainly very charismatic but also a totally self-absorbed, unprofessional, childish, megalomaniac control freak. But people put up with a lot when you’re a brilliant genius. Which is why many of the chroniclers of HST’s life in this volume are so glib and blasé about this crazy drug fiend. First of all, they indulged and enjoyed in the same mortal pleasures, but also because they knew they were special for being lucky enough to be so close to the fire of this special man. A man who shined and burned out like no one else ever will.

The most illuminating of the many, many personal stories shared throughout the book is one in which Hunter, out of character, goes out of his way to help an injured friend. When the friend asks him why he is going to all the trouble, Hunter tells him, “I can’t stand to be around pain.”

Hunter S. Thompson couldn’t stand to be around pain. Explains a lot.

Thanks, book!

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