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Gonzo: The Life of Hunter S. Thompsonby Jann S Wenner
Synopses & Reviews
Hailed everywhere as a brilliant biography, GONZO is a startling portrait of Hunter S. Thompson, the genius who spent a lifetime channeling his energy and insight into such landmark works as Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas--and revolutionized the art of writing. In their own words, an incredible array of stars--Sonny Barger, Jack Nicholson, Ralph Steadman, Jimmy Buffett, Anjelica Huston, Marilyn Manson, Jimmy Carter, and many more--bring into vivid focus Thompson's creative frenzies, love affairs, drug use, and, ultimately, his tragic suicide. As Thompson was fond of saying, "Buy the ticket, take the ride."
"Gonzo...is no hagiography, and it is in its unflinching look at this singular character in American letters as fearless-if not more so-as anything Thompson ever dared write....The most comprehensive picture of Thompson so far, and...likely the best we'll ever get." --Patrick Beach, Austin American-Statesman
"A fond and exhilarating look back at the wild man of American journalism, put together by a couple of guys who were pretty close to him." --
"Uproarious and unpredictable, this oral biography is a fitting look at the turbulent life of Gonzo journalism pioneer Hunter S. Thompson (1937-2005), a life surrounded by many but understood by few: 'always pushing,' Thompson 'created a kind of inner circle of people who stood the test.' That circle is well represented among the volume's many 'voices,' including ex-wife Sandy Thompson and their son, Juan, longtime collaborator Ralph Steadman, actors Johnny Depp and Jack Nicholson, and old friends Porter Bibb and Ed Bastian. The story-tellers provide a great number of angles, bringing forth insight that goes well beyond Thompson's famous love for alcohol and drugs-though they don't neglect the intoxicants, nor the eccentric writer's most obvious quirks (such as his indiscriminate verbal outbursts: 'he was always yelling at himself, like "AAHHH!!! CAZART!!!"'). A rich, rollicking vision of Thompson that highlights his outlandish personality and his passion for language ('He started typing out Fitzgerald and Hemingway books word for word... he said, "I just like to get the feel of how it is to write those words."'), Wenner and Seymour's work also encompasses the unlikely transition of Gonzo from radical, reactionary style-du-jour to culture-defining literature: 'Only a handful of writers in a generation can pull that off, and Hunter transcended his competition.' This fine, fond biography amuses, inspires, outrages and haunts at all the right moments-and sometimes all at once." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Reading 'Gonzo' takes us back to a counterculture moment in U.S. history that seemed very modern and cutting-edge at the time but was still taking its cues from the rhetoric of Hemingway. It was a time in America when many men were he-men and proud of it: The really masculine ones fought wars, scaled mountains, built bridges. The mid-list guys found bars where they could beat each other up, drove... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) 100 miles an hour through hairpin turns, laboriously dragged their couches out onto the front lawn, where they could set them on fire. Those were men's adventures; adventurous women tested their mettle by hooking up with abusive men and finding out just how much abuse they could take. It was also still a world where, despite the rise of feminism, men got to write the books and their loving spouses got to type them — or to take dead-end jobs to bring in some money so that the men could stay at home, stare at their typewriters, type pages, pull them out with drama and flair, ball them up and throw them across the room, then pour another drink, or roll another joint. Nobody's fault! That's just the way the culture was. Almost everybody in those beatnik/hippie days bought into it. Full disclosure: I know some of the people in this book. Also, since Hunter Thompson shot himself through the throat in his own house with a .45, leaving his son to find the body and the unholy mess it must have made, I must also disclose that my paternal grandmother shot her own head off with a shotgun, leaving my father to find the body. I have a strong bias against people who blow their heads off in the house. It's a mean thing to do, maybe the meanest thing you can do in a family, and you'd better have a pretty good reason — or, at least, be an amazing writer — to justify that kind of action. Jann Wenner, who edited this oral biography with a former editorial assistant and who has the interests of Rolling Stone magazine at heart, focuses on many family members and friends of Hunter Thompson's who insist he was a 'genius,' but the reality of his life was perhaps more complex and sad than the use of that word might imply. Maybe Thompson just wrote a few books and magazine pieces that perfectly reflected the zeitgeist, then got caught up in the self-destructive persona he had created, and dribbled a good part of his life away. He was born in Louisville, one of three sons of a widowed woman. He is variously described as a leader or a bully in his youth. He threw stones and stole toy soldiers, shoplifted, broke into liquor stores and became pretty handy with a gun. He ran with a rich crowd, and when a bunch of them got arrested in their senior year of high school, the rich boys' dads bailed their sons out. Thompson had to settle for the Air Force, and it rankled him. He soon found a beautiful girl, Sandy, who would be his wife for 17 years. 'I washed clothes,' she remembers, 'I fed him. I gave him feedback on 'The Rum Diary.' I took care of him and made love.' She declared herself madly in love and dedicated her life to him. They traveled to South America, Puerto Rico, Big Sur, and ended up in Aspen, on a farm with peacocks and other animals. They did a lot of drugs. But Hunter would stay up two or three days and nights at a time, and hurl abuse at his wife and the help, and go after his little kid with a cattle prod (just kidding, of course), and was notoriously unfaithful. He got some magazine assignments, hooked up with the Hell's Angels, wrote a book about them, got beat up and elicited this from the notorious Sonny Barger: 'I don't think that people realize that just because you're really good at something, it doesn't mean you're a good person.' This, from a scandalized Hell's Angel. Then came 'Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,' which Thompson and Wenner turned into a franchise: Fear and Loathing in this, that and the other thing. Thompson took to wearing costumes and lipstick and brandished Tasers and tire irons as well as his arsenal of guns. He set off bombs. He never made a phone call in the daytime if he could make it at 3 in the morning. He got in motorcycle accidents and set things on fire. He named F. Scott Fitzgerald as his literary idol but acted like a poor man's Hemingway-in-Cuba. Writer's block and various physical ailments set in. Wenner is interesting for what he leaves out here. Charlie Perry is identified as Rolling Stone's 'first copy editor'; in fact he's an eminent scholar of Persian cuisine. Grover Lewis, who many thought was the real genius-writer of Rolling Stone, is referred to here only as 'another editor.' David Hickey, another Rolling Stone writer, who went on to write the esteemed 'Air Guitar,' evidently has his own opinions about Thompson but was not consulted. What's important is not how bad he was as a man but how good he was as a writer. 'Hell's Angels' and 'Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas' are swell. But isn't the rest imitation and self-parody? For hyperbolic journalism, doesn't Tom Wolfe beat Thompson by a mile, and for beautifully crafted journalistic art, doesn't Grover Lewis just wham him? Thompson was loved all right, by bad boys who wanted to get speeding tickets and stay up all night and add ether to their repertoire of drugs. No wonder Thompson was mad when he died. He should have taken it outside, and spared the furniture." Reviewed by Carolyn See, who can be reached at www.carolynsee.com, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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The star-studded, rollicking, juicy story of Hunter S. Thompsons life brings to vivid focus a man who was more complicated and talented than any previous portrait has shown. Its all here: the creative frenzies, the love affairs, the drugs, booze, guns, and, ultimately, the tragic suicide.Little, Brown and Company
Few American lives are stranger, more action-packed, or wilder than that of Hunter S. Thompson. Born a rebel in Louisville, Kentucky, Thompson spent a lifetime channeling his energy and insight into such landmark works as Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas - and his singular and provocative style challenged and revolutionized writing.
Now, for the first time ever, Jann Wenner and Corey Seymour have interviewed the Good Doctor's friends, family, acquaintances and colleagues and woven their memories into a brilliant oral biography. From Hell's Angels leader Sonny Barger to Ralph Steadman to Jack Nicholson to Jimmy Buffett to Pat Buchanan to Marilyn Manson and Thompson's two wives, son, and longtime personal assistant, more than 100 members of Thompson's inner circle bring into vivid focus the life of a man who was even more complicated, tormented, and talented than any previous portrait has shown. It's all here in its uncensored glory: the creative frenzies, the love affairs, the drugs and booze and guns and explosives and, ultimately, the tragic suicide. As Thompson was fond of saying, Buy the ticket, take the ride.
About the Author
Jann S. Wenner is the founder, owner and editor of Rolling Stone magazine. He is also the head of Wenner Media, which includes such magazines as US Weekly and Men's Journal. He lives in Manhattan.
Corey Seymour is a writer and editor who came to know Hunter Thompson while working as his New York-based assistant during his tenure at Rolling Stone in the early nineties. He lives in Brooklyn.
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