Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Misogyny, self-loathing, and great writing

I've been reading Bill McKeen's biography of Hunter S. Thompson, Outlaw Journalist, and being quietly appalled by what an absolute shit the man was -- and from day one. He apparently emerged from the womb a fairly full-blown misogynistic racist homophobic sociopath with an over-inflated ego and a general feeling that none of the rules other people followed applied to him.

I knew the man could be an ass on multiple levels -- that came through loud and clear in everything he wrote -- but I'd never realized just how hard he worked at being that ass. I loved his writing so I guess I was hoping the total fucktard complete jerk persona was an act. No such luck.

Thompson apparently had more than his fair share of charisma -- from early childhood on he succeeded in charming various people into doing amazing favors for him, including keeping him from starving back before his writing career took off -- but that charisma definitely does not shine through in this book. No matter what the favor was, he consistently managed to pay it back by either destroying something his friends valued or by betraying a trust. His personality and ability to manipulate people has to qualify as one of those "you had to be there" things to understand because my reaction over and over to descriptions of his escapades was "why did people put up with that crap?"

Right now I'm only one-third through the book but, after learning more than I ever wanted to know about his long history of spouse abuse (the highlights include him routinely slapping his girlfriends/spouses around as well as his first wife having multiple Mexican abortions so as to not interfere with Thompson's writing career in the early 1960s), child neglect/abuse, irrational violent behavior, acts of vandalism, and just general assholery, I'm already looking forward to the suicide.

Update: Finished the book. Definitely a depressing biography. Thompson had potential, but squandered his talent. It could have been the drug and alcohol abuse, an underlying mental illness like bipolar disorder, or a combination of the two, but once he got trapped in his own "gonzo" image he was doomed.


  1. I would bet the bank that Hunter S. (shithead?)Thompson was bipolar. We are notorious self medicators and famous for "acting out." And my generation of men, at least the ones in my life, were a bunch of narcissistic asshats. Taught that they, by virtue of their maleness, were entitled them to RULE the women in their lives. And then the Women's movement came along to burst their bubble. Those men had a very hard time adjusting to the fact that their wives just up and left them in the dust.

  2. oh man what a disappointment..I knew he was an asshole but im like you thought it was on a small scale...i admire his writing so much and hate it when some one you admire is not worthy of your admiration.

  3. I guess in this case, it's okay that you know the ending.

  4. I liked the Hell's Angels book but things went downhill from there with all the Fear and Loathing 'gonzo' crap. And anyone who kills themselves is a gutless son of a bitch anyway, so I guess his true colors came out in the end.

  5. So that means the ending is less than...tragic!!! At least in my humble opinion.

  6. I don't know much about Thompson and haven't read much of what he wrote. But I can sort of relate to him. And I guess that his last wife didn't have much of a problem with him.

    Life is just a matter of finding those that you are okay with and love, at some level, so I'm willing to cut him a little slack.


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