Monday, March 07, 2005

Hunter S. Thompson


Hunter S. Thompson, the originator of "gonzo journalism," killed himself on Feb. 20. Some of you may be familiar with Thompson's work and that of other "new journalists" of the '60s and '70s. You may have seen the film "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," which featured Johnny Depp as Thompson, or you may be familiar with the Doonesbury character Uncle Duke, which is based on Thompson. In any case, Thompson was an idiosyncratic writer, whose work some devour like candy while others, myself included, enjoy only in small bites. That Thompson was called a "new journalist" has always bothered me because he blended fact and fiction, often drug-enduced fiction, in his articles and set aside traditional reportial detachment for subjective storytelling. It might be that our recent troubles with fabrication in news stories can be traced back to Thompson and his celebrated ilk, who were not true journalists though for many their works were edifying. Thompson, Tom Wolfe and Truman Capote, among others, were interpreters of public events who were not above artful embellishment and dramatic recreation. If Thompson's tragic death leads you to pick up some of his writings, I would recommend his relatively straightforward reporting on the Hells Angel.


Professor Wiggins


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