The Stone City

Words Made to Last

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Two Deaths

Hearing of the death of Hunter Thompson makes us mourn two things. We mourn the man, whose intensity of rage and despair must have been terrible to bear, and the fact that the coruscating life he brought to his words was not enough to sustain him.

And, more selfishly, we mourn the writer, whose long demise over the last three decades is now brutally final. Others including Tim Blair have already focused on his lyrical lament for the dying Sixties:
So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water markā€”that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.

But this is really an atypical passage. Thompson is relentlessly focused on the personal and small-scale, and on the incandescent present. And he illuminated that present in a way no one else ever had. Thompson's books are hilarious and nihilistic, but that does not make them worthless comedies. Besides Heller's Catch-22, I can think of no comparable example of great comic prose style in the last century.

My ideology is opposite to Thompson's, but I cannot oppose his writing. His beliefs led him to madness and death, but I can claim no victory; I can only wish there were more like him. Mr. Thompson, we salute you.