Gonzo

Posted on December 15, 2011

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How do I start informing my dearest readers about Gonzo journalism? The term “gonzo” was first applied in the 1970s by The Boston Globe editor Bill Cardoso. 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.” Gonzo journalism is a compelling and outrageous mish -mash of reporting and in Hunter’s case acid sprinkled literate prose all combined together to produce a hazy, graphic, compelling drug induced piece of writing. Gonzo tends to focus on the emotions of the writer at the time while the article they are producing merely becomes a back drop to the sordid tale they wish to unleash on the world and our willing eyes. Gonzo writers love to use profanity, sarcasm and exaggerate many events to engage the reader and take them on one hell of a ride.

Anyone who is interested in the workings of the young American writers of the 1950s onwards – in this I include Truman Capote, Tom Wolfe and Jack Kerouac amongst others would undoubtedly be aware of the man, the myth, the legend Hunter S Thompson – the pioneer of the infamous gonzo style of journalism. Hunter done everything to excess and pushed the boundaries when it came to drugs, alcohol, writing and even women, there were no boundaries. Thompsons’ writings were taking place when free love and drug taking were popular with youths and the hippie movement was growing  larger with a notion of peace clasping the world together. Thompson based his style on William Burrough’s notion that “fiction is often the best fact.” This manic style runs vividly throughout all of Hunter’s works. Notably most famously Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, a crazy acid fuelled, ether induced madness on one reporters voyage to carry out a piece on the Kentucky Derby. Fear and Loathing was later made into a movie, with Johnny Depp portraying the role of one of his beloved friends the elusive and enigmatic Thompson, perfecting his style and grace to an absolute tee.

Depp has returned once again to the twinkling lights of Hollywood and has starred and produced “The Rum Diary”, Thompson’s first novel loosely based on his work as a young reporter in Puerto Rico. Although the film received varied reviews from both sides of the pond, I personally enjoyed it but felt it lacked a certain Thompson slice flowing through it. “The Rum Diary” had left out various major points that were key to the whole element of the story. One thing it did however was bring Hunter S Thompson back in the public eye and to introduce a throng of new writers to his dark and twisted mind and hopefully entice and inspire them to challenge Thompson for his well deserved throne at the heart of gonzo journalism.

Hot on the heels of this big screen debut however the release of “Fear and Loathing at Rolling Stone” is a book containing various pieces of Hunter’s work and at £25 a copy I know what I will be asking Santa for Christmas. Perhaps with Mescal on the side?

Hunter S Thompson – a man who lived by his own rules and even died by them. Choosing his time to die rather than wait for the Almighty to smite him, just like his hero Ernest Hemingway had done before him. On the 20th February 2005, Hunter simply drove out to his land and used a shotgun to end his time on this great plain. Hunter may be gone but his intense passion for the written word will live on until the end of time, and with the introduction of Citizen Journalism – which has allowed anyone from any walk of life to have their opinions heard by the masses. I have a sneaky feeling that no one can dispute that Hunter S Thompson had a major impact on this.

Thompson said in the February 15th, 1973 issue of Rolling Stone, “If I’d written the truth I knew for the past ten years, about 600 people—including me—would be rotting in prison cells from Rio to Seattle.

Today. Absolute truth is a very rare and dangerous commodity in the context of professional journalism.” What else can we expect from the genius that was Hunter S Thompson.

By Lacey Dolan

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Posted in: Profiles