A friend of mine once told me that my brother and I were the only people she knew who dropped the “S.” from Hunter Thompson’s name. I don’t really know why I do that. I’ve caught myself referring to him simply as “Hunter” once or twice recently and I feel like a douche whenever I do it.
Anyway, the interview: While I am, again, having fun reading these interviews, I still haven’t gotten as much out of one as I did from the Bradbury interview. Like I said about the Vonnegut, it might have something to do with how familiar I am with the writer before the interview. While I love Bradbury’s writing, I really didn’t know much about him as a person; Vonnegut’s nonfiction is intensely personal, and I know more about Hunter Thompson than any other writer I can think of. I’ve read tons of his letters, the majority of his published output (maybe only 55%, but still a majority — the man wrote a ton.) So I didn’t get too much new information from the interview. I do wonder if that was because it took place in 2000 — Thompson didn’t have the final straws of September 11th and the Bush reelection that finally broke his spirit, but he was slowing down, it felt. He recites his beginnings in Louisville and Eglin AFB, and I use the word recite here specifically.
The most entertaining part of the interview, for me, was about his love of deadlines. He loved the push at the end, and it makes sense when you consider that his first “gonzo” work, “The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved,” was a lead followed by pages torn out of his notebooks, and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas falls apart into transcripts from his tape recorder at one point. He tells a story about writing a eulogy for Allen Ginsberg that Johnny Depp read for him at the funeral; he got it to Depp a half hour before Depp was due on stage, and most of it’s insults and fabrication. It’s quite tender. Too long to reproduce verbatim, but if you click the link it’s about 3/4 of the way down the page. Definitely worth it.
On writers who say they can’t work drunk or high: “They lie. Or maybe you’ve been interviewing a very narrow spectrum of writers. It’s like saying, “Almost without exception women we’ve interviewed over the years swear that they never indulge in sodomy”—without saying that you did all your interviews in a nunnery. Did you interview Coleridge? Did you interview Poe? Or Scott Fitzgerald? Or Mark Twain? Or Fred Exley? Did Faulkner tell you that what he was drinking all the time was really iced tea, not whiskey? Please. Who the fuck do you think wrote the Book of Revelation? A bunch of stone-sober clerics?”
On the writing process:
Interviewer: “Are there any mnemonic devices that get you going once a deadline is upon you—sharpening pencils, music that you put on, a special place to sit?”
Thompson: “Bestiality films.”