Will's Coffee House

John Dryden, Dramatist, Critic, Poet Laureate, and my ancestor, frequented a coffee house called Will's almost daily, where he would hold forth on sundry subjects with great wit and aplomb. Same deal here, only without the wit or aplomb.

Location: Large Midwestern City, Midwestern State, United States

I am a stranger in a sane land...

Monday, February 21, 2005


So, f***. Hunter S. Thompson is dead, and (oh joy) by his own hand. Always nice for a depressive to hear that those who spent much of their lives living fully and exuberantly and fearlessly (Hemingway comes to mind) have succumbed to the conviction that life, even when so lived, is not worth living. Not that I'm slamming Mr. Thompson for--the idea is actually giggle-inducing in this case--"setting a bad example"--OK, it's more than giggle-inducing, it's downright hilarious; the man lived a life devoted to setting a bad example--one might argue that not since De Sade has anyone really done so with precisely that purpose. In fact, "setting a bad example" redeems his suicide from a bleak act of despair/illness to a final act of rebellious transgression, designed (one imagines) to express his morbid contempt for the world as it has become and to perhaps goad some lesser lemmings into taking the plunge as well.

One wonders how Thompson had been able to stand the past four years--reading Generations of Swine and recalling his views on the Americas of Nixon and Reagan, one wonders why the gun wasn't in his hand, turned inward or outward, a long time ago. Because George W. Bush and the culture he has fostered (perhaps 'festered' is a better word) is so utterly the antithesis of the fierce honesty of Thompson and the Gonzo ethos he created (if I may use a term for which he would undoubtedly have backhanded me sharply)--not that Thompson shied away from much of what Bush & Co. have done, particularly feeding the nation a banquet of violence that reminds one of gladitorial Rome; thanks to the Iraqi invasion, we're able to watch miserable louts of foreign captivity murder each other daily and gruesomely for our benefit. One imagines that such clarity of vision into human nature would have pleased Thompson to no end.

But nothing appalled him worse than the banal hypocrisy of which the American politician seems the perpetual embodiment, particularly when cloaked in the flimsy garb of religious self-congratulation. Bush appals for many reasons, but the primary one is that he is a degenerate Roman Emperor claiming--and in his own small madness, believing himself to be--a humble, pious man of the people. In doing so, he defiles the visceral bloodlust he so obviously enjoys but does not have the balls to openly savor--the closest he came was in an early debate with Gore, when he spoke with relish about the upcoming execution of the murderers of James Byrd, and, of course, his mocking impersonation to a reporter of Karla Faye Tucker's pleas for mercy--one saw the real Bush there--the Nero who recognized that Freud was right, and that the ability to kill with impunity is an erotic experience like no other--and he defiles the principles of charity, kindness, and empathy espoused by the true nature of Christianity, of which he understands not a whit. That such a man--doubly hypocritical, doubly damned--is celebrated, adored, embraced by this country must have savaged Thompson's soul. I mourn him, but I understand. The thought of leaving this country for Singapore has become something I think of with increasing optimism. If George W. Bush is our god-king, I've got to seek another place of worship, thanks.

Thompson didn't believe that such a place existed, I imagine. It's a grim punchline that one of the most important writers of the 20th century--perhaps the most fearless social critic since the death of H.L. Mencken--a man who, racist warts and all, has never been more needed by his nation than now--didn't even merit a mention in the first half of last night's local news-stations. No, all they wanted to talk about was a few days of heavy rain. Not until the end of the broadcast did they get around to mentioning, for about 30 seconds, the 'tragedy'--a misuse of the word that Thompson would have spat upon--of his suicide. When one recalls the outpouring of grief at the loss of uncontributive, star-f***ing non-entities like Princess Diana and Jacqueline Onassis, one realizes that Thomson's act becomes eminently sensible when viewed through his ever-uncompromising gaze. I do not mourn the writings that might have been--what could he have written that we would have listened to over the blare of American Idol and Hannity & Colmes? I do not mourn his loss beyond an inner wince at the pain that must have led up to it, and for the pain his family and friends will feel now. I suspect that, at a loss of anything more original to say, many will recall and cite his self-quoted words at the disappearance (and likely murder) of his friend Oscar Zeta Acosta, better known to readers of Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas as the incorrigible Dr. Gonzo: that he was "to weird to live, too rare to die." I won't insult Thompson by recyling them for his own epitaph, except to say that they reflect the emotions of repulsed affection, of horrified admiration that this man's passing must evoke.

Hunter S. Thompson, 1937-2005. God speed, God bless, God forgive you.


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