Sunday, February 20, 2005

Hunter S. Thompson Kills Himself

I guess everyone is already going to have read about this, but Hunter S. Thompson has committed suicide. I am stunned and saddened. Somehow Hunter is, however, one of those suicides I don't feel any anger at. It's odd how that works. Sometimes one is inclined to judge a suicide, for obscure reasons of ones own. I felt a sort of anger to hear that Spalding Gray had killed himself, for example -- perhaps because he did it in such a way that left his family looking for him, unsure what happened, for several days. (I gather HST's son found his body -- I'm not sure that that's better, but still, leaving people to worry for days is cruel). Gray had various health problems, as, I gather, did Dr. Thompson, but still, perhaps completely unfairly, I felt that his suicide was somehow selfish, self-indulgent, the wrong thing to have done. Other times (in the case of Phil Ochs, for me, or perhaps Elliot Smith, if that was a suicide) one feels more compassion -- one understands that one was dealing all along with an exceptionally sensitive soul that couldn't long withstand the pressures and realities of the world. Every now and then there are other kinds of suicides, too, ones that evoke neither sympathy nor blame -- what Durkheim called "altruistic suicides," where people die for a cause, for example. I read quite a bit on Andrew Veal, the young man who, after Bush's reelection, drove across the US to sneak onto the World Trade Center site -- Ground Zero, now -- and commit suicide there, as a form of political protest. I felt a certain admiration for the action as a political gesture, though I don't know Veal's personal circumstances and imagine he had other problems driving him on. I'm sure his family grieve him. Still, it took some sort of conviction to do what he did, some sort of desire to better the world, misguided though it may have been...

Though I know nothing of the actual circumstances that prompted Hunter S. Thompson to shoot himself, somehow it seems to me that it must have been more of an expression of protest, of self-assertion, rather than a concession of defeat. What to call it, a Hemingway suicide, a Mishima suicide -- ? How else could a man of his character -- which one gathers at least from his writing and from the HST mythos was gun-loving, passionate, intolerant of mediocrity, direct, forceful, irascible, curmudgeonly -- possibly die? It doesn't surprise me and I don't begrudge him his right to choose his own time. It's sad, and I'm sorry for his family and what they must be going through... But my respect for Dr. Gonzo has not diminished. It somehow fits the narrative. Of course, I didn't know the man, only his public persona... I don't really understand anything, here, am just sharing my off-the-cuff reaction, which is one of neither blame nor pity. The Doctor is gone. Glad he was around for as long as he was.

I wonder if, when I get to the bookstore tonight to work my shift, we'll have any of his books left. I'm betting not...

__

Addendum: Read this on speculations as to why HST did it, and this for one of his last published pieces for ESPN, on his new enthusiasm (shotgun golf) and a latenite phonecall to Bill Murray to talk about it. Also, Michael Moore's site has just posted HST's reflections on the 2004 elections. ("The question this year is not whether President Bush is acting more and more like the head of a fascist government but if the American people want it that way.") It's kind of fun to relive the whole sickening process of Bush being elected again through Thompson's eyes. Worthwhile reading, tho' it's sad to recall the optimism people felt thinking Kerry might just win. And by the way, we still had most of Hunter's books at the bookstore, but not Fear and Loathing.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thompson 'shot himself on phone'http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/arts/4298095.stm

recofan

Anonymous said...

Thompson 'shot himself on phone'http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/arts/4298095.stm

recofan

Anonymous said...

Thompson 'shot himself on phone'
recofan

ammacinn said...

Recofan -

Yeah, I noticed. Hey, did your handle come from the Tokyo CD chain? --

A.