Monday, February 21, 2005


Hunter Stockton Thomas existed and worked on a wholly different plane from other American writers. Two of the most deft character specialists of our time, Johnny Depp and Bill Murray, have not only played him in major films but have laboriously stretched just to try to capture him, that mumbled monotone that managed with no discernible emotion to convey a casual menace as sociopathic as it was principled. How many films can you name about Hemingway, Faulkner or Steinbeck. I can only think of one each for Hammett and Fitzgerald, and as far as almost any living person knows about their actual speech patterns and mannerisms, Leo Gorcey could have sold the roles.
There is no way in hell you could walk through the role of HST. He and his voice and gestures and bearing and demeanor were integral to his own writing. It wasn't just gonzo, or vanity journalism; for that, read Joe Eszterhaz's contemporaneous and flagrantly imitative pieces for Rolling Stone. HST was the essential element in his own reportage and commentary. You only got half of the piece--the savage raving, the fear and loathing--from the printed text. The first time I saw and heard him speak, sensed that context of amused and fatalistic nonchalance, I knew I'd have to re-read Hell's Angels and Las Vegas in that voice to round out the experience.
And then he got tired, and the result was Generation of Swine, like Bob Dylan singing Masters of War for the three thousandth time, because it's what they pay to hear.
Some people evidently suspect that it was all an act, that HST was as much a fabrication is Raoul Duke. I don't think so, but in any case, if it was an act, he clearly stayed in character just a bit too long.
Two last thoughts.
There can be very little doubt that his "suicide" was in fact a revenge killing engineered by Karl Rove.
What the hell is Gerry Trudeau going to do with/about Uncle Duke now?


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