by Lee Cross
Some writers have a voice. You hear it rattling around in your head when you’ve finished their books… you can’t keep it out… you don’t want to keep it out.
Other writers go further, they’re all voice.
Once they are in your head they don’t just repeat their written words to you, they start speaking for themselves, answering the little questions that fill your day – ‘Should I get red or white wine with dinner’? – “How about a nice Chianti”? Erm thanks for the tip Hannibal but I think maybe on second thoughts I’ll take a sparkling water when the waiter gets back.
For me, when I was learning about books, there really was only one voice. The voice. Hunter Stockton Thompson.
I don’t know how to explain what I felt clearly…
Have your ever been to Las Vegas? I haven’t. I’ll go further and say, I can’t think of anywhere I’d like to visit less (…Dr. Lecter didn’t tell me to write that…at least…I don’t think so…), UNLESS I was sitting in the rented shark, with the top down and HST screaming beside me… describing the city… illustrating with words the death of the American dream.
Then there’s ‘Campaign trail’, I’ve never been so involved in the political discussion as I was when I read those collected articles; something like 25 years after the point had become moot.
I know Nixon was the worst scum to ever walk the earth, in the same way I know that John McGovern was, at least by the measure of the politician, a living saint. That the Election was a landslide in favour of the devil was mere background noise (…I actually had to look up the figures there to remind myself…) which Hunter shouted down over the top of the electoral college…
Thompson wrote a lot more than just those two classics, some of which I read, most of which I skipped (…alas, “the flame that burns twice as bright burns half as long,” may never have been more truly quoted…).
I wasn’t a fan of his later writings, I was a fan of the voice of his consciousness. I don’t know how he did it but that voice, his voice, transcended the page and settled comfortably in my inner ear providing a commentary on life I’d never been able to tune into alone.
Whatever the magic required, he had it in abundance. There have been more good books written about the cult of Dr. Gonzo than Thompson ever produced with his own hand (…Ralph Steadman’s memoirs comes straight to mind for instance…) all because his voice had moved beyond him and come to live in minds other than his own.
And you know the Truth…I don’t think I ever heard H.S.T. actually speak. What’s really funny about that is I’d never realised it before I started writing this blog.
How amazing is that! I can remember watching the movie version of Vegas way back when and thinking, Johnny Depp’s impression is really good BUT not quite perfect…
What I based that judgement of I know not but weirdly it still feels like the truth now!
Afterword: I’ve been thinking a lot about Hunter lately, what with all the international media coverage of the US Presidential race between Trump (…speaking of voices, some of the comments remind me so clearly of Hitler that I struggle translating them into English…) and ‘Hillary’, it’s hard for me not too.
I don’t get a vote, I’m not even sure if an “either/or” decision counts as a choice frankly, so I’m not going to offer an opinion here. I will say though that there’s part of me, this other presence in the back of my head, that’s summarizing everything and feeding it back to me in this voice of anger and passion…
‘Fear and Loathing on the campaign trial-17’ might end up being the greatest book never written – at least, until the next time when Hunter’s voice rises itself from the depths and tells me the truths I’m too afraid to here.
(If you can vote in the upcoming election, good luck. Whichever way you go remember what Hunter said, “Buy the ticket, take the ride”.)