Hunter S. Thompson (18 July 1937 – 20 February 2005) was an American journalist and author famous for his flamboyant writing style, known as Gonzo Journalism, which blurred the distinctions between writer and subject, fiction and non-fiction. At the age of 67, suffering a bout of health problems, Thompson died at his home in Woody Creek, Colorado, of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
- The hippies, who had never really believed they were the wave of the future anyway, saw the election results as brutal confirmation of the futility of fighting the establishment on its own terms. There had to be a whole new scene, they said, and the only way to do it was to make the big move — either figuratively or literally — from Berkeley to the Haight-Ashbury, from pragmatism to mysticism, from politics to dope... The thrust is no longer for "change" or "progress" or "revolution," but merely to escape, to live on the far perimeter of a world that might have been.
- "The Hashbury is the Capital of the Hippies" (May 1967); republished in Gonzo Papers, Vol. 1: The Great Shark Hunt: Strange Tales from a Strange Time (1979), pp 392-394
- Richard Nixon has never been one of my favorite people anyway. For years I've regarded his existence as a monument to all the rancid genes and broken chromosomes that corrupt the possibilities of the American Dream; he was a foul caricature of himself, a man with no soul, no inner convictions, with the integrity of a hyena and the style of a poison toad. The Nixon I remembered was absolutely humorless; I couldn't imagine him laughing at anything except maybe a paraplegic who wanted to vote Democratic but couldn't quite reach the lever on the voting machine.
- Pageant (July 1968)
- The hard core, the outlaw elite, were the Hell's Angels... wearing the winged death's-head on the back of their sleeveless jackets and packing their "mamas" behind them on big "chopped hogs." They rode with a fine unwashed arrogance, secure in their reputation as the rottenest motorcycle gang in the whole history of Christendom.
- A man who has blown all his options can't afford the luxury of changing his ways. He has to capitalize on whatever he has left, and he can't afford to admit — no matter how often he's reminded of it — that every day of his life takes him farther and farther down a blind alley... Very few toads in this world are Prince Charmings in disguise. Most are simply toads... and they are going to stay that way... Toads don't make laws or change any basic structures, but one or two rooty insights can work powerful changes in the way they get through life. A toad who believes he got a raw deal before he even knew who was dealing will usually be sympathetic to the mean, vindictive ignorance that colors the Hell's Angels' view of humanity. There is not much mental distance between a feeling of having been screwed and the ethic of total retaliation, or at least the random revenge that comes with outraging the public decency.
- Satan's Slaves, number three in the outlaw hierarchy, custom-bike specialists with a taste for the flesh of young dogs, flashy headbands and tender young blondes with lobotomy eyes.
- Tiny hurts people. When he loses his temper he goes completely out of control and his huge body becomes a lethal weapon. It is difficult to see what role he might play in the Great Society.
- But with the throttle screwed on, there is only the barest margin, and no room at all for mistakes. It has to be done right... and that's when the strange music starts, when you stretch your luck so far that fear becomes exhilaration and vibrates along your arms. You can barely see at a hundred; the tears blow back so fast that they vaporize before they get to your ears. The only sounds are the wind and a dull roar floating back from the mufflers. You watch the white line and try to lean with it... howling through a turn to the right, then to the left, and down the long hill to Pacifica... letting off now, watching for cops, but only until the next dark stretch and another few seconds on the edge... The Edge... There is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over. The others- the living- are those who pushed their luck as far as they felt they could handle it, and then pulled back, or slowed down, or did whatever they had to when it came time to choose between Now and Later. But the edge is still Out there. Or maybe it's In. The association of motorcycles with LSD is no accident of publicity. They are both a means to an end, to the place of definitions.
- The streets of every city in America are filled with men who would pay all the money they could lay their hands on to be transformed, even for a day, into hairy, hard-fisted brutes who walk all over cops, extort drinks from terrified bartenders and roar out of town on big motorcycles after raping the banker's daughter.
- Women are terrified of being raped, but somewhere in the back of the womb there is one rebellious nerve end that tingles with curiosity whenever the word is mentioned.
- My face looked like it had been jammed into the spokes of a speeding Harley, and the only thing keeping me awake was the spastic pain of a broken rib. It had been a bad trip. . . fast and wild in some moments, slow and dirty in others, but on balance it looked like a bummer. On my way back to San Francisco, I tried to compose a fitting epitaph. I wanted something original, but there was no escaping the echo of Mistah Kurtz' final words from the heart of darkness: "The horror! The horror!. . . Exterminate all the brutes!"
- "Mayblossom Senility" (Steadman's phrase)...burnt out early or maybe just not much to burn in the first place. Not much energy in the faces, not much curiosity. Suffering in silence, nowhere to go after thirty in this life, just hang on and humor the children. Let the young enjoy themselves while they can. Why not?
- "The Kentucky Derby Is Decadent and Depraved" in Scanlan's Monthly, Vol. 1, No. 4, (June 1970)
- The slow-rising central horror of "Watergate" is not that it might grind down to the reluctant impeachment of a vengeful thug of a president whose entire political career has been a monument to the same kind of cheap shots and treachery he finally got nailed for, but that we might somehow fail to learn something from it.
- Rolling Stone (2 August 1973)
- What we are looking at on all our TV sets is a man who finally, after 24 years of frenzied effort, became the President of the United States with a personal salary of $200,000 a year and an unlimited expense account including a fleet of private helicopters, jetliners, armored cars, personal mansions and estates on both coasts and control over a budget beyond the wildest dream of King Midas … and all the dumb bastard can show us, after five years of total freedom to do anything he wants with all this power, is a shattered national economy, disastrous defeat in a war we could have ended four years ago on far better terms than he finally came around to, and a hand-picked personal staff put together through five years of screening, whose collective criminal record will blow the minds of high-school American History students for the next 100 years.
- Rolling Stone #144 (27 September 1973)
- Jesus! How much more of this cheap-jack bullshit can we be expected to take from that stupid little gunsel? Who gives a fuck if he's lonely and depressed down there in San Clemente? If there were any such thing as true justice in this world, his rancid carcass would be somewhere down around Easter Island right now, in the belly of a hammerhead shark.
- Reacting to a Washington Post article on Nixon's life after resignation. Rolling Stone #171 (10 October 1974)
- It is Nixon himself who represents that dark, venal and incurably violent side of the American character that almost every country in the world has learned to fear and despise. Our Barbie-doll president, with his Barbie-doll wife and his boxful of Barbie-doll children is also America's answer to the monstrous Mr. Hyde. He speaks for the Werewolf in us; the bully, the predatory shyster who turns into something unspeakable, full of claws and bleeding string-warts on nights when the moon comes too close…
- "Ask Not for Whom the Bell Tolls… (October 1973), also published in Gonzo Papers, Vol I : The Great Shark Hunt: Strange Tales from a Strange Time (1979)
- We disagree so violently on almost everything that it's a real pleasure to drink with him. If nothing else, he's absolutely honest in his lunacy — and I've found, during my admittedly limited experience in political reporting, that power & honesty very rarely coincide.
- I have never felt comfortable around people who talk about their feelings for Jesus, or any other deity for that matter, because they are usually none too bright... Or maybe "stupid" is a better way of saying it; but I have never seen much point in getting heavy with either stupid people or Jesus freaks, just as long as they don't bother me. In a world as weird and cruel as this one we have made for ourselves, I figure anybody who can find peace and personal happiness without ripping off somebody else deserves to be left alone. They will not inherit the earth, but then neither will I... And I have learned to live, as it were, with the idea that I will never find peace and happiness, either. But as long as I know there's a pretty good chance I can get my hands on either one of them every once in a while, I do the best I can between high spots.
- Rolling Stone (1976)
- When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.
- "Fear and Loathing at the Super Bowl" (Rolling Stone #155, (28 February 1974); republished in Gonzo Papers, Vol. 1: The Great Shark Hunt: Strange Tales from a Strange Time (1979), p. 49
- To Richard Milhous Nixon, who never let me down.
- epigraph to Gonzo Papers, Vol I : The Great Shark Hunt: Strange Tales from a Strange Time (1979), p. 7
- Myths and legends die hard in America. We love them for the extra dimension they provide, the illusion of near-infinite possibility to erase the narrow confines of most men's reality. Weird heroes and mould-breaking champions exist as living proof to those who need it that the tyranny of 'the rat race' is not yet final.
- Gonzo Papers, Vol. 1: The Great Shark Hunt: Strange Tales from a Strange Time (1979)
- I returned to the Holiday Inn — where they have a swimming pool and air-conditioned rooms — to consider the paradox of a nation that has given so much to those who preach the glories of rugged individualism from the security of countless corporate sinecures, and so little to that diminishing band of yesterday's refugees who still practice it, day by day, in a tough, rootless and sometimes witless style that most of us have long since been weaned away from.
- Gonzo Papers, Vol. 1: The Great Shark Hunt: Strange Tales from a Strange Time (1979)
- The only other important thing to be said about Fear & Loathing at this time is that it was fun to write, and that's rare — for me, at least, because I've always considered writing the most hateful kind of work. I suspect it's a bit like fucking — which is fun only for amateurs. Old whores don't do much giggling. Nothing is fun when you have to do it — over and over, again and again — or else you'll be evicted, and that gets old. So it's a rare goddamn trip for a locked-in, rent-paying writer to get into a gig that, even in retrospect, was a kinghell, highlife fuck-all from start to finish... and then to actually get paid for writing this kind of manic gibberish seems genuinely weird; like getting paid for kicking Agnew in the balls. So maybe there's hope. Or maybe I'm going mad... In a nation ruled by swine, all pigs are upward mobile — and the rest of us are fucked until we can put our acts together: Not necessarily to Win, but mainly to keep from Losing Completely... The Swine are gearing down for a serious workout this time around... So much, then, for The Road — and for the last possibilities of running amok in Las Vegas... Well, at least, I'll know I was there, neck deep in the madness, before the deal went down, and I got so high and wild that I felt like a two-ton Manta ray jumping all the way across the Bay of Bengal.
- Comments on Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas in The Great Shark Hunt: Strange Tales from a Strange Time (1979), p. 109
- This is just a sampling; for more quotes from this novel see Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
- We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold. I remember saying something like "I feel a bit lightheaded; maybe you should drive..." And suddenly there was a terrible roar all around us and the sky was full of what looked like huge bats, all swooping and screeching and diving around the car, which was going about a hundred miles an hour with the top down to Las Vegas. And a voice was screaming: "Holy Jesus! What are these goddamn animals?"
- No point mentioning those bats, I thought. The poor bastard will see them soon enough.
- If the current polls are reliable... Nixon will be re-elected by a huge majority of Americans who feel he is not only more honest and more trustworthy than George McGovern, but also more likely to end the war in Vietnam. The polls also indicate that Nixon will get a comfortable majority of the Youth Vote. And that he might carry all fifty states... This may be the year when we finally come face to face with ourselves; finally just lay back and say it — that we are really just a nation of 220 million used car salesmen with all the money we need to buy guns, and no qualms at all about killing anybody else in the world who tries to make us uncomfortable. The tragedy of all this is that George McGovern, for all his mistakes... understands what a fantastic monument to all the best instincts of the human race this country might have been, if we could have kept it out of the hands of greedy little hustlers like Richard Nixon. McGovern made some stupid mistakes, but in context they seem almost frivolous compared to the things Richard Nixon does every day of his life, on purpose... Jesus! Where will it end? How low do you have to stoop in this country to be President?
- "September,", p. 413
- There was something... total... something very undermining about the McGovern defeat... There was a very unexplained kind of... ominous quality to it... weeping chaos. People you'd never expect to break down... stumbled off the plane in tears... It was such a shock to me that although I'd gone back to Washington to analyze... I saw how ripped up people were... I decided to hell with this... So I just went right around to the main terminal and got on another plane and went back to Colorado.
- "November", p 450-457
- The kids are turned off from politics, they say. Most of 'em don't even want to hear about it. All they want to do these days is lie around on waterbeds and smoke that goddamn marrywanna... yeah, and just between you and me Fred thats probably all for the best.
- Even that far-left radical bastard George S. McGovern — babbling a maddening litany of his most Far Out ideas — would be hard pressed to crank up a more than 30% animosity quotient.
- The importance of Liking Yourself is a notion that fell heavily out of favour during the coptic, anti-ego frenzy of the acid era — but nobody guessed back then that the experiment might churn up this kind of hangover; a whole subculture of frightened illiterates with no faith in anything.
- A nervous blonde nymphet who thought that politics was some kind of game played by old people, like bridge.
- Anything that gets the adrenalin moving like a 440 volt blast in a copper bathtub is good for the reflexes and keeps the veins free of cholesterol... but too many adrenaline rushes in any given time span has the same effect on the nervous system as too many electro-shock treatments are said to have on the brain: after a while you start burning out the circuits. When a jackrabbit gets addicted to road-running, its only a matter of time before he gets smashed — and when a journalist turns into a politics junkie he will sooner or later start raving and babbling in print about things that only a person who has Been There can possibly understand.
- So much for Objective Journalism. Don't bother to look for it here — not under any byline of mine; or anyone else I can think of. With the possible exception of things like box scores, race results, and stock market tabulations, there is no such thing as Objective Journalism. The phrase itself is a pompous contradiction in terms.
- There is nothing so unusual, they tell me, about coming back to your car and finding the radio aerial torn off, the windshield wipers bent up in the air like spaghetti, and all the windows smashed... for no particular reason except to make sure you know just exactly where it's at these days. Where indeed?
- The massive, frustrated energies of a mainly young, disillusioned electorate that has long since abandoned the idea that we all have a duty to vote. This is like being told you have a duty to buy a new car, but you have to choose immediately between a Ford and a Chevy.
- We've come to a point where every four years this national fever rises up — this hunger for the Saviour, the White Knight, the Man on Horseback — and whoever wins becomes so immensely powerful, like Nixon is now, that when you vote for President today you're talking about giving a man dictatorial power for four years. I think it might be better to have the President sort of like the King of England — or the Queen — and have the real business of the presidency conducted by... a City Manager-type, a Prime Minister, somebody who's directly answerable to Congress, rather than a person who moves all his friends into the White House and does whatever he wants for four years. The whole framework of the presidency is getting out of hand. It's come to the point where you almost can't run unless you can cause people to salivate and whip each other with big sticks. You almost have to be a rock star to get the kind of fever you need to survive in American politics.
- The ugly fallout from the American Dream has been coming down on us at a pretty consistent rate since Sitting Bull's time — and the only real difference now, with Election Day '72 only a few weeks away, is that we seem to be on the verge of ratifying the fallout and forgetting the Dream itself.
- Ed: Rip up the streets?
HST: With jackhammers.
Ed: With jackhammers?
- Jesus man! You don't look for acid! Acid finds you when it thinks you're ready.
- How many times had he stood calmly back there on the duckboards and listened to respectable-looking people talk about raping the hotel penguins?
- The Curse of Lono (1983)
- I went to the Democratic Convention as a journalist, and returned a raving beast. For me, that week in Chicago was far worse than the worst bad acid trip I'd even heard rumors about. It permanently altered my brain chemistry…
- Comment on the protest activity at the 1968 Democratic National Convention, as quoted in "The Doctor Is In" by Curtis Wilkie, in The Boston Globe Magazine (7 February 1988), p. 16
- Variant: I went to the Democratic Convention as a journalist, and returned a cold-blooded revolutionary.
- As quoted in the editors note by Douglas Brinkley, in Fear and Loathing in America: The Brutal Odyssey of an Outlaw Journalist (2000), p.xvi ISBN 0747553459
Generation of Swine (1988)Edit
- Gonzo Papers, Vol. 2: Generation of Swine: Tales of Shame and Degradation in the '80s (1988)
- The TV business is uglier than most things. It is normally perceived as some kind of cruel and shallow money trench through the heart of the journalism industry, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free and good men die like dogs, for no good reason.
- Originally published in the San Francisco Examiner (4 November 1985), this is often quoted as concluding with the statement "There's also a negative side." Research by David Emery, in Your Guide to Urban Legends indicates that these words, however were not included by Thompson himself in the published version.
- There are times, however, and this is one of them, when even being right feels wrong. What do you say, for instance, about a generation that has been taught that rain is poison and sex is death? If making love might be fatal and if a cool spring breeze on any summer afternoon can turn a crystal blue lake into a puddle of black poison right in front of your eyes, there is not much left except TV and relentless masturbation. It's a strange world. Some people get rich and others eat shit and die. Who knows? If there is in fact, a heaven and a hell, all we know for sure is that hell will be a viciously overcrowded version of Phoenix — a clean well lighted place full of sunshine and bromides and fast cars where almost everybody seems vaguely happy, except those who know in their hearts what is missing... And being driven slowly and quietly into the kind of terminal craziness that comes with finally understanding that the one thing you want is not there. Missing. Back-ordered. No tengo. Vaya con dios. Grow up! Small is better. Take what you can get...
- Maybe there is no Heaven. Or maybe this is all pure gibberish — a product of the demented imagination of a lazy drunken hillbilly with a heart full of hate who has found a way to live out where the real winds blow — to sleep late, have fun, get wild, drink whisky, and drive fast on empty streets with nothing in mind except falling in love and not getting arrested...
Res ipsa loquitur. Let the good times roll.
- It was Saturday night in America, and I felt like a native son.
- It is all well and good for children and acid freaks to still believe in Santa Claus — but it is still a profoundly morbid day for us working professionals. It is unsettling to know that one out of every twenty people you meet on Xmas will be dead this time next year... Some people can accept this, and some can't. That is why God made whiskey, and also why Wild Turkey comes in $300 shaped canisters during most of the Christmas season.
- "Fear and Loathing in Elko" Rolling Stone (23 January 1992)
- There is a huge body of evidence to support the notion that me and the police were put on this earth to do extremely different things and never to mingle professionally with each other, except at official functions, when we all wear ties and drink heavily and whoop it up like the natural, good-humored wild boys that we know in our hearts that we are. … These occasions are rare, but they happen — despite the forked tongue of fate that has put us forever on different paths...
- "Fear and Loathing in Elko" Rolling Stone (23 January 1992)
- Some people will say that words like scum and rotten are wrong for Objective Journalism — which is true, but they miss the point. It was the built-in blind spots of the Objective rules and dogma that allowed Nixon to slither into the White House in the first place. He looked so good on paper that you could almost vote for him sight unseen. He seemed so all-American, so much like Horatio Alger, that he was able to slip through the cracks of Objective Journalism. You had to get Subjective to see Nixon clearly, and the shock of recognition was often painful.
- Better than Sex (22 August 1994)
- There are a lot of ways to practice the art of journalism, and one of them is to use your art like a hammer to destroy the right people — who are almost always your enemies, for one reason or another, and who usually deserve to be crippled, because they are wrong. This is a dangerous notion, and very few professional journalists will endorse it — calling it "vengeful" and "primitive" and "perverse" regardless of how often they might do the same thing themselves. "That kind of stuff is opinion," they say, "and the reader is cheated if it's not labelled as opinion." Well, maybe so. Maybe Tom Paine cheated his readers and Mark Twain was a devious fraud with no morals at all who used journalism for his own foul ends. And maybe H. L. Mencken should have been locked up for trying to pass off his opinions on gullible readers and normal "objective journalism." Mencken understood that politics — as used in journalism — was the art of controlling his environment, and he made no apologies for it. In my case, using what politely might be called "advocacy journalism," I've used reporting as a weapon to affect political situations that bear down on my environment.
- Better than Sex (22 August 1994)
- Not everybody is comfortable with the idea that politics is a guilty addiction. But it is. They are addicts, and they are guilty and they do lie and cheat and steal — like all junkies. And when they get in a frenzy, they will sacrifice anything and anybody to feed their cruel and stupid habit, and there is no cure for it. That is addictive thinking. That is politics — especially in presidential campaigns. That is when the addicts seize the high ground. They care about nothing else. They are salmon, and they must spawn. They are addicts.
- Better than Sex (22 August 1994)
- John F. Kennedy … murdered in Dallas by some hapless geek named Oswald who worked for either Castro, the mob, Jimmy Hoffa, the CIA, his dominatrix landlady or the odious, degenerate FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover. The list is long and crazy — maybe Marilyn Monroe's first husband fired those shots from the grassy knoll. Who knows? A whole generation of American journalists is still embarrassed by their failure to answer that question. JFK's ghost will haunt the corridors of power in America for as long as the grass is green and the rivers run to the sea. Take my word for it, Bubba. I have heard his footsteps for 30 years and I still feel guilty about not being able to explain the biggest news story of my lifetime to my son.
- Better than Sex (22 August 1994)
- No candidate will risk being linked with a "suspected" addict — but a registered, admitted addict is a whole different thing. As long as I'd confessed, I was okay. Nobody really cared about the countless criminal addictions that preyed on me day and night — just as long as I was not in denial. That was the key. As long as they knew that I knew I was sick and guilty, I was safe.
- Better than Sex (22 August 1994)
- If you consider the great journalists in history, you don't see too many objective journalists on that list. H. L. Mencken was not objective. Mike Royko, who just died. I. F. Stone was not objective. Mark Twain was not objective. I don't quite understand this worship of objectivity in journalism. Now, just flat-out lying is different from being subjective.
- Interview in The Atlantic Monthly (17 September 1997)
He Was A Crook (1994)Edit
- Obituary on Richard Nixon, Rolling Stone (16 June 1994)
- These are harsh words for a man only recently canonized by President Clinton and my old friend George McGovern — but I have written worse things about Nixon, many times, and the record will show that I kicked him repeatedly long before he went down. I beat him like a mad dog with mange every time I got a chance, and I am proud of it. He was scum.
- He could shake your hand and stab you in the back at the same time.
- If the right people had been in charge of Nixon's funeral, his casket would have been launched into one of those open-sewage canals that empty into the ocean just south of Los Angeles. He was a swine of a man and a jabbering dupe of a president. Nixon was so crooked that he needed servants to help him screw his pants on every morning. Even his funeral was illegal. He was queer in the deepest way. His body should have been burned in a trash bin.
- Nixon will be remembered as a classic case of a smart man shitting in his own nest. But he also shit in our nests, and that was the crime that history will burn on his memory like a brand. By disgracing and degrading the Presidency of the United States, by fleeing the White House like a diseased cur, Richard Nixon broke the heart of the American Dream.
The Proud Highway : The Fear and Loathing Letters Volume I (1997)Edit
- Hopes rise and dreams flicker and die. Love plans for tomorrow and loneliness thinks of yesterday. Life is beautiful and living is pain. The sound of music floats down a dark street.
- Letter to Gerald "Ching" Tyrrell, (11 November 1956), p. 28
- You'd be surprised at the things people will do in order to get their names or pictures in the paper.
- Letter to Judy Stellings (18 November 1956), p. 30
- Ah, fortune and fame shall follow me...and I shall dwell in the world of the chosen for a few moments of fleeting ecstasy; ere the seven burly lads turn into creditors and hustle me off to debtors' prison at last.
- Letter to Porter Bibb III (6 February 1957), p. 44
- They say that "he who flies highest, falls farthest" — and who am I to argue? But we can't forget that "he who doesn't flap his wings, never flies at all". And with that, I'll stop trying to convince myself that I can't fail; how dull the whole thing would be if that were true.
- Letter to Larry Callen (30 October 1957), p. 71
- (Just heard Gen. White's proclamation that we "have Russia zeroed in from all directions." I am waiting now for Vannevar Bush and Ed Teller to announce that our new supersensitive radar picked up a rash of heart tremors from the direction of the USSR, immediately after White's remarkably insignificant statement, I could almost hear Karl Marx laughing in his tomb.)
- Letter to Lieutenant Colonel Frank Campbell (29 November 1957), p. 76
- But fie on these unanswered queries and fie on those who pose them. There are stories to be written, drinks to be drunk, women to be ravished, and ... alas, money to be made. We shall ride the bouncing ball and fight gamely to avoid being on the bottom when it bounces. … that is all ye know and all ye need to know. Amen.
- Letter to Lieutenant Colonel Frank Campbell (6 January 1958), p. 96
- Events of the past two years have virtually decreed that I shall wrestle with the literary muse for the rest of my days. And so, having tasted the poverty of one end of the scale, I have no choice but to direct my energies toward the acquisition of fame and fortune. Frankly, I have no taste for either poverty or honest labor, so writing is the only recourse left me.
- Letter to Arch Gerhart (29 January 1958), p. 106
- I may sound a little black, but I'm really pretty well adjusted.
- Letter to Kay Menyers (17 March 1958), p. 109
- A man has to BE something; he has to matter.
- Letter to Hume Logan (22 April 1958), p. 118
- I find that by putting things in writing I can understand them and see them a little more objectively. … For words are merely tools and if you use the right ones you can actually put even your life in order, if you don't lie to yourself and use the wrong words.
- Letter to Larry Callen (14 July 1958), p. 133
- Sacrificing good men to journalism is like sending William Faulkner to work for Time magazine.
- Letter to Jerome H. Walker (7 December 1958), p. 142
- Platitudes are safe, because they're easy to wink at, but truth is something else again.
- Letter to William J. Kennedy (29 October 1959), p. 192
- There is at this moment a beetle the size of god's ass on the table about six inches from the t-writer. It is worse than anything Kafka ever dreamed, so big I can see its eyes and the hair on its legs — jesus, suddenly it leaped off and now circles me with a menacing whir.
- Letter to Paul Semonin (26 May 1962), p. 337
- Once I establish credit, I may be able to function. A man needs credit. Especially when he has no money.
- Letter to Dwight Martin (21 February 1964), p. 440
- Something new is wanted. A new novel, perhaps. Something the ten-percenters don't have their hooks into yet. Those soul-fuckers should all be killed.
- Letter to William J. Kennedy (12 July 1967), p. 630
The Rum Diary (1998)Edit
- Most people who deal in words don't have much faith in them and I am no exception — especially the big ones like Happy and Love and Honest and Strong. They are too elusive and far too relative when you compare them to sharp, mean little words like Punk and Cheap and Phony. I feel at home with these, because they are scrawny and easy to pin, but the big ones are tough and it takes either a priest or a fool to use them with any confidence.
- Like most of the others, I was a seeker, a mover, a malcontent, and at times a stupid hell-raiser. I was never idle long enough to do much thinking, but I felt somehow that my instincts were right. I shared a vagrant optimism that some of us were making real progress, that we had taken an honest road, and that the best of us would inevitably make it over the top. At the same time, I shared a dark suspicion that the life we were leading was a lost cause, that we were all actors, kidding ourselves along on a senseless odyssey. It was the tension between these two poles — a restless idealism on one hand and a sense of impending doom on the other — that kept me going.
- The scene I had just witnessed brought back a lot of memories — not of things I have done but of things I have failed to do, wasted hours and frustrated moments and opportunities forever lost because time had eaten so much of my life and I would never get it back.
- I had come to regard him as a loner with no real past and a future so vague there was no sense talking about it.
- Disgusting as he usually was, on rare occasions he showed flashes of stagnant intelligence. But his brain was so rotted with drink and dissolute living that whenever he put it to work it behaved like an old engine that had gone haywire from being dipped in lard.
- What passed for society was a loud, giddy whirl of thieves and pretentious hustlers, a dull sideshow full of quacks and clowns and philistines with gimp mentalities.
- By the time we got to the street, I could see the first rays of the sun, a cool pink glow in the eastern sky. The fact that I’d spent all night in a cell and a courtroom made that morning one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. There was a peace and brightness about it, a chilly Caribbean dawn after a night in a filthy jail. I looked out at the ships and the sea beyond them, and I felt crazy to be free with a whole day ahead of me.
Then I realized I would sleep most of the day, and my excitement disappeared.
- “I like this place” he said with a grin “I like to sit up here and look down at the beach and think of all the good things I could do with a Luger.”
- If I had a Luger, I thought, I could drill the bastards. I leaned on one elbow and pointed a finger at the window, seeing what kind of shot I would get. Perfect. There was just enough light in the street for a good silhouette. I knew it would happen quickly, I’d have no choice: just pull the trigger and go deaf from the terrible noise, a frenzy of screaming and scratching followed by a ghastly thump of a body knocked back and down to the sidewalk.
- It was the kind of town that made you feel like Humphrey Bogart: you came in on a bumpy little plane, and, for some mysterious reason, got a private room with a balcony overlooking the town and the harbor; then you sat there and drank until something happened. I felt a tremendous distance between me and everything real.
- I sat there for a long time, and thought about a lot of things. Foremost among them was the suspicion that my strange and ungovernable instincts might do me in before I had a chance to get rich. No matter how much I wanted those things that I needed money to buy, there was some devilish current pushing me off in another direction — toward anarchy, poverty and craziness. That maddening delusion that a man can lead a decent life without hiring himself out as a Judas goat.
- The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but to those who see it coming and jump aside.
- Sometimes at dusk, when you were trying to relax and not think of the general stagnation, the Garbage God would gather a handful of those choked-off morning hopes and dangle them somewhere just out of reach; they would hang in the breeze and make a sound like delicate glass bells, reminding you of something you never quite got hold of, and never would.
- The stewardess reached down to fasten Bloor's seatbelt. I saw his left arm snake out and settle affectionately around her shoulders. Good God! I thought. This is it. I could see the headlines in tomorrow's News. But the stewardess only smiled and backed off a few steps, dismissing Bloor's crude advance with a slap at his arm and an icy professional smile. I tried to return it, but my face was not working properly.
- Jesus, I thought, I am ripped right straight to the tits. Where am I? Are we going up or down? Somewhere in the back of my brain, I knew I was sitting in a jeep in the parking lot of a night club on an island off the Mexican coast — but how could I really be sure, with another part of my brain apparently convinced that I was looking down on the huge glittering bowl of Los Angeles from the cockpit of a 727? Was that the Milky Way? Or Sunset Boulevard? Orion, or the Beverly Hills Hotel?
- Suddenly I was tired of Lotterman; he was a phony and he didn't even know it. He was forever yapping about freedom of the press and keeping the paper going, but if he'd had a million dollars and all the freedom in the world he'd still put out a worthless newspaper because he wasn't smart enough to put out a good one. He was just another noisy little punk in the great legion of punks who marched between the banners of bigger and better men. Freedom, Truth, Honour — you could rattle off a hundred such words and behind every one of them would gather a thousand punks, pompous little farts, waving the banner with one hand and reaching under the table with the other.
I stood up. "Ed," I said using his name for the first time, "I believe I'll quit."
- There was one exact moment, in fact, when I knew for sure that Al Gore would never be President of the United States, no matter what the experts were saying — and that was when the whole Bush family suddenly appeared on TV and openly scoffed at the idea of Gore winning Florida. It was Nonsense, said the Candidate, Utter nonsense. . . Anybody who believed Bush had lost Florida was a Fool. The Media, all of them, were Liars & Dunces or treacherous whores trying to sabotage his victory. . . Here was the whole bloody Family laughing & hooting & sneering at the dumbness of the whole world on National TV. The old man was the real tip-off. The leer on his face was almost frightening. It was like looking into the eyes of a tall hyena with a living sheep in its mouth. The sheep's fate was sealed, and so was Al Gore's.
- "The Fix is In" (27 November 2000)
- The towers are gone now, reduced to bloody rubble, along with all hopes for Peace in Our Time, in the United States or any other country. Make no mistake about it: We are At War now — with somebody — and we will stay At War with that mysterious Enemy for the rest of our lives.
- "Kingdom of Fear" (12 September 2001)
- It will be guerilla warfare on a global scale, with no front lines and no identifiable enemy ... We are going to punish somebody for this attack, but just who or what will be blown to smithereens for it is hard to say. Maybe Afghanistan, maybe Pakistan or Iraq, or possibly all three at once. Who knows?
- "Kingdom of Fear" (12 September 2001)
- This is going to be a very expensive war, and Victory is not guaranteed — for anyone, and certainly not for anyone as baffled as George W. Bush. All he knows is that his father started the war a long time ago, and that he, the goofy child-President, has been chosen by Fate and the global Oil industry to finish it. Now.
- "When War Drums Roll" (17 September 2001)
- The last half of the 20th century will seem like a wild party for rich kids, compared to what's coming now. The party's over, folks. . . [Censorship of the news] is a given in wartime, along with massive campaigns of deliberately-planted "Dis-information". That is routine behavior in Wartime — for all countries and all combatants — and it makes life difficult for people who value real news.
- "When War Drums Roll" (17 September 2001)
- This blizzard of mind-warping war propaganda out of Washington is building up steam. Monday is Anthrax, Tuesday is Bankruptcy, Friday is Child-Rape, Thursday is Bomb-scares, etc., etc., etc... If we believed all the brutal, frat-boy threats coming out of the White House, we would be dead before Sunday. It is pure and savage terrorism reminiscent of Nazi Germany.
- "Domestic terrorism at the Super Bowl" (11 February 2002)
- The city's frightening now. That's the basis of my reaction to Las Vegas. It's not the city I wrote about. It's not the same place at all. You'll notice that even the — what do you call them? — milestone or trademark casinos are now gone.
- "30 years after FALILV: Hunter S. Thompson on Las Vegas Today'" Las Vegas City Life (7 June 2002)
- It ain't much, but it's the only weapon we have against the Greedheads.
- On voting, in "My 49er Habit" (4 November 2002), also published in Hey Rube : Blood Sport, the Bush Doctrine, and the Downward Spiral of Dumbness (2004)
- Fiction is based on reality unless you're a fairy-tale artist, you have to get your knowledge of life from somewhere. You have to know the material you're writing about before you alter it.
- But speaking of rules, you've been arrested dozens of times in your life. Specific incidents aside, what's common to these run-ins? Where do you stand vis-à-vis the law?
"Goddammit. Yeah, I have. First, there's a huge difference between being arrested and being guilty. Second, see, the law changes and I don't. How I stand vis-à-vis the law at any given moment depends on the law. The law can change from state to state, from nation to nation, from city to city. I guess I have to go by a higher law. How's that? Yeah, I consider myself a road man for the lords of karma."
- We are turning into a nation of whimpering slaves to Fear — fear of war, fear of poverty, fear of random terrorism, fear of getting down-sized or fired because of the plunging economy, fear of getting evicted for bad debts, or suddenly getting locked up in a military detention camp on vague charges of being a Terrorist sympathizer.
- "Extreme Behavior in Aspen" (3 February 2003)
- It is hard to ignore the prima facie dumbness that got us bogged down in this nasty war in the first place. This is not going to be like Daddy's War, old sport. He actually won, and he still got run out of the White House nine months later.. . The whole thing sucks. It was wrong from the start, and it is getting wronger by the hour.
- "Love in a Time of War" (31 March 2003)
- What the hell is going on here? How could this once-proud nation have changed so much, so drastically, in only a little more than two years. In what seems like the blink of an eye, this George Bush has brought us from a prosperous nation at peace to a broke nation at war.
- "A Sad Week in America" (10 March 2003)
- But wow! This goofy child president we have on our hands now. He is demonstrably a fool and a failure, and this is only the summer of '03. The American nation is in the worst condition I can remember in my lifetime, and our prospects for the immediate future are even worse. . . The Bush family must be very proud of themselves today, but I am not. Big Darkness, soon come. Take my word for it.
- "Big Darkness" (22 July 2003)
- The utter collapse of this Profoundly criminal Bush conspiracy will come none too soon for people like me... The massive plundering of the U.S. Treasury and all its resources has been almost on a scale that is criminally insane, and has literally destroyed the lives of millions of American people and American families. Exactly. You and me, sport — we are the ones who are going to suffer, and suffer massively. This is going to be just like the Book of Revelation said it was going to be — the end of the world as we knew it.
- "The Nation's Capital" (29 July 2003)
- I had a truly horrible dream last night … [Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mike Tyson and I] were on our way to a TV studio for a debate about his long-time working friendship with the powerful Bush family from Texas and how it might affect the next Bush presidency when The Terminator seizes power in Sacramento and tries to hand over the state's 54 electoral votes by election day in 2004. That is the basic plan behind Schwarzenegger running. He doesn't want to be Governor, he just wants the electoral votes to go to Bush this time.
- "Nightmare in La-La-Land" (17 August 2003)
- Why are we seeing George Bush on TV every two hours for nine or ten days at a time, like some kind of mutated Mr. Rogers clone? Something is dangerously wrong in any country where a monumentally-failed backwoods politician can scare our national TV networks so totally that they will give him anything he wants.
- "The Bush League" (9 September 2003)
- I take no pleasure in being Right in my dark predictions about the fate of our military intervention in the heart of the Muslim world. It is immensely depressing to me. Nobody likes to be betting against the Home team.
- "Fast and Furious" (14 October 2003)
- If we get chased out of Iraq with our tail between our legs, that will be the fifth consecutive Third-world country with no hint of a Navy or an Air Force to have whipped us in the past 40 years.
- "Am I Turning Into a Pervert?" (18 November 2003)
- Is it possible that he has already abandoned all hope of getting re-elected? Or does he plan to cancel the Election altogether by declaring a national military emergency with terrorists closing in from all sides, leaving him with no choice but to launch a huge bomb immediately?. . . Desperate men do desperate things, and stupid men do stupid things. We are in for a desperately stupid summer.
- "Bush's Disturbing Sleeping Disorder" (18 February 2004)
- For myself, I would much prefer to be stuck with Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament, than stuck with George Bush in the White House. It is the difference between losing your wallet at a cock fight and losing all your credit cards forever, along with your job and your house and your ability to earn enough money to pay off your sports-gambling debts or even a six-pack on game day. . .
- "What's Better Than the Tournament?' (18 March 2004)
- The 2004 presidential election will be a matter of life or death for the whole nation. We are sick today, and we will be even sicker tomorrow if this wretched half-bright swine of a president gets re-elected in November.
- "The Big Finale Was a Big Disappointment" (6 April 2004)
- Not even the foulest atrocities of Adolf Hitler ever shocked me so badly as these Abu Ghraib photographs did.
- "Let's Go to the Olympics!" (18 May 2004); this was afterwards edited at ESPN to read "These horrifying digital snapshots of the American dream in action on foreign soil are worse than anything even I could have expected." Drudge Report (24 May 2004)
- These horrifying digital snapshots of the American dream in action on foreign soil are worse than anything even I could have expected. I have been in this business a long time and I have seen many staggering things, but this one is over the line. Now I am really ashamed to carry an American passport.
- There was no time for scholarly details, and, besides, I have always believed that a man can fairly be judged by the standards and taste of his choices in matters of high-level plagiarism.
- Bush is a natural-born loser with a filthy-rich daddy who pimped his son out to rich oil-mongers. He hates music, football and sex, in no particular order, and he is no fun at all.
- Today, the Panzer-like Bush machine controls all three branches of our federal government, the first time that has happened since Calvin Coolidge was in the White House. And that makes it just about impossible to mount any kind of Congressional investigation of a firmly-entrenched president like George Bush. The time has come to get deeply into football. It is the only thing we have left that ain't fixed.
- I had a soft spot in my heart for Ronald Reagan, if only because he was a sportswriter in his youth, and also because his wife gave the best head in Hollywood.
- Hey Rube: Blood Sport, the Bush Doctrine, and the Downward Spiral of Dumbness (2004)
- If you're going to be crazy, you have to get paid for it or else you're going to be locked up.
- Walk tall, kick ass, learn to speak Arabic, love music and never forget you come from a long line of truth seekers, lovers and warriors.
- A note to his grandson, Will (2005), reprinted in "Outlaw Journalist : The Life and Times of Hunter S. Thompson" (2008), by William McKeen
- Football season is over. No More Games. No More Bombs. No More Walking. No More Fun. No More Swimming. 67. That is 17 years past 50. 17 more than I needed or wanted. Boring. I am always bitchy. No Fun — for anybody. 67. You are getting Greedy. Act your old age. Relax — This won't hurt.
- Suicide note (20 February 2005)
Welcome to the Big Darkness (2003)Edit
- When I went into the clinic last April 30, George Bush was about 50 points ahead of his closest Democratic opponent in next year's Presidential Election. When I finally escaped from the horrible place, less than three weeks later, Bush's job-approval ratings had been cut in half — and even down into single digits, in some states — and the Republican Party was panicked and on the run. It was a staggering reversal in a very short time, even shorter than it took for his equally crooked father to drop from 93 percent approval, down to as low as 43 percent and even 41 percent in the last doomed days of the first doomed Bush Administration. After that, he was Bill Clinton's punching bag.
- Richard Nixon could tell us a lot about peaking too early. He was a master of it, because it beat him every time. He never learned and neither did Bush the Elder.
- But wow! This goofy child president we have on our hands now. He is demonstrably a fool and a failure, and this is only the summer of '03. By the summer of 2004, he might not even be living in the White House. Gone, gone, like the snows of yesteryear.
- The Rumsfeld-Cheney axis has self-destructed right in front of our eyes, along with the once-proud Perle-Wolfowitz bund that is turning to wax. They somehow managed to blow it all, like a gang of kids on a looting spree, between January and July, or even less. It is genuinely incredible. The U.S. Treasury is empty, we are losing that stupid, fraudulent chickencrap War in Iraq, and every country in the world except a handful of Corrupt Brits despises us. We are losers, and that is the one unforgiveable sin in America.
Kingdom of Fear: Loathsome Secrets of a Star-crossed Child in the Final Days of the American Century (2004)Edit
- Morality is temporary, wisdom is permanent.
- Paranoia is just another word for ignorance.
- I shit on the chest of Fun.
- We shit on the chest of Weird.
- Music has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of fuel. Sentimental people call it inspiration, but what they really mean is fuel. I have always needed fuel. I am a serious consumer. On some nights I still believe that a car with the gas needle on empty can run about fifty more miles if you have the right music very loud on the radio.
- I have a theory that the truth is never told during the nine-to-five hours.
- The only difference between the Sane and the Insane, is IN and yet within this world, the Sane have the power to have the Insane locked up.
- All political power comes from the barrel of either guns, pussy, or opium pipes, and people seem to like it that way.
- We are like pygmies lost in a maze of haze. We are not at war, we are having a nervous breakdown,again.
- I understand that fear is my friend, but not always. Never turn your back on fear. It should always be in front of you, like a thing that might have to be killed.
- The only ones left with any confidence at all are the New Dumb. It is the beginning of the end of our world as we knew it. Doom is the operative ethic.
- We have become a Nazi monster in the eyes of the whole world, a nation of bullies and bastards who would rather kill than live peacefully. We are not just Whores for power and oil, but killer whores with hate and fear in our hearts. We are human scum, and that is how history will judge us. No redeeming social value. Just whores. Get out of our way, or we'll kill you. Who does vote for these dishonest shitheads? Who among us can be happy and proud of having all this innocent blood on our hands? Who are these swine? These flag-sucking half-wits who get fleeced and fooled by stupid little rich kids like George Bush? They are the same ones who wanted to have Muhammad Ali locked up for refusing to kill gooks. They speak for all that is cruel and stupid and vicious in the American character. They are the racists and hate mongers among us; they are the Ku Klux Klan. I piss down the throats of these Nazis. And I am too old to worry about whether they like it or not. Fuck them.
- Now, years later, I still have trouble when I think about Chicago ('68). That week at the Convention changed everything I'd ever taken for granted about this country and my place in it... Everytime I tried to tell somebody what happened in Chicago I began crying , and it took me years to understand why... Chicago was the End of the Sixties, for me.
- It was wonderful, a stunning happy ending to what began as just another tragic rock & roll story, as if Bob Dylan had been arrested in Miami for jacking off in a seedy little XXX theater while stroking the spine of a fat young boy.
- I was also drunk, crazy and heavily armed at all times. People trembled and cursed when I came into a public room and started screaming in German.
- I knew a Buddhist once, and I've hated myself ever since. The whole thing was a failure.
Quotes about ThompsonEdit
- "I don't deny his lifestyle, because his lifestyle was pretty extreme," Anita Thompson told The Associated Press, but that lifestyle was made possible by his success as a reporter and writer, not the other way around.
In her new book, The Gonzo Way: A Celebration of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, Thompson says her husband built his career with a tireless dedication to the craft of reporting, a keen awareness of his own shortcomings and his personal blend of patriotism: loving his country while mistrusting authority. … Her book, published by Fulcrum Publishing, depicts the man who used the pseudonym Raoul Duke in his famous Fear and Loathing as a relentless researcher and a voracious reader. He viewed politics as both worthy and necessary to get things done, the book says, and he believed nothing could be accomplished without friends and allies.
"The Hunter I want people to understand is hardworking, righteous and a patriot — a bedrock patriot and loyal to his country and loyal to his friends," Anita Thompson said. Even his most savage political commentary was written in hopes of inspiring change: "He believed we were better than what we were electing."
Thompson also knew his faults and either compensated for them or harnessed them, his widow said. He thought he was lazy, so he worked hard. He could be angry and violent, so he poured that energy onto the page.
- Associated Press report "The truth about Hunter S. Thompson" at CNN (12 October 2007)
- No one took the voice of the journalist further away from ‘neutral background’ (or seemed less able to stop himself doing it) than Hunter S. Thompson. Even at the start of his career, he was no believer in journalistic neutrality. … Certainly Thompson is a peculiarly misshapen sort of moralist, one who often makes himself ugly to expose the ugliness he sees around him. Sometimes he's just ugly for the sake of it. This means that at times in The Proud Highway he comes over as an out-and-out asshole, whining about money, boring people about his unpublished novels, making a drunken fool of himself and generally using the facilities and not cleaning up afterwards.
- Hunter was an enigma all his life. He puzzled his mother, who wondered why he did the things he did. But she understood that her eldest son had magnetism. After he became famous, she was saying his charisma was there all along, although he was difficult from the moment of his birth. Life as Hunter Thompson's mother was no weenie roast.
He was a pain in the ass. He was fearless. He was cruel, but also capable of great kindness. He was a loyal friend. Near the end, he was frequently sentimental. Sometimes brusque and rude, he could also be a courtly southern gentleman. Virginia Thompson had worked overtime to raise sons with good manners.
- William McKeen, in Outlaw Journalist : The Life and Times of Hunter S. Thompson (2008), Ch. 1, Getting Away With It, p. 1
- A lightning rod for controversy, his antics were often portrayed by lesser men as mere self-aggrandizement, but they served a much grander purpose. He elevated an ideal, a towering lighthouse with a brilliant guiding flame for those who decided, like himself and his predecessors, to live their lives to the absolute fullest, consequences be damned.
There was always a powerful comfort in knowing he was out there somewhere in the night, roaring drunk, guzzling high-octane whiskey and railing against a world amok with complacency and hypocrisy. There was always a weird sense that he could pop up any where at any time to stick it to The Man and set things straight. Sometimes he appeared a force of nature, other times a Homeric hero capable of conjuring excitement and purpose from the most innocuous of circumstances. Hunter didn’t have to seek out adventure, he was adventure.
Which often meant dancing with death. Most men spend their entire lives avoiding that jig, but the good Doctor sought it out, he seemed to possess a keen understanding of the song’s deadly rhythm and he boogied down with the fucker.
- Hunter made such a splash when he appeared on the literary scene because no one had ever seen anything like it. His sharp, unforgiving prose surged across the page and he seemed strangely willing to insert himself into the story to the degree that he became the story. Instead of observing from the sidelines, he preferred to jump into the game and look for the truth from the midst of the action.
Of course, there are certain risks involved with that sort of behavior. He managed to make a host of enemies along the way, infuriating elements running the gamut from the Hells Angels to Richard Nixon. Not that he seemed to mind. He knew it came with the territory — that if you wanted the real story you had to take risks.
- Frank Kelly Rich, in "The King Is Dead, Long Live the King" in Modern Drunkard Magazine (February 2005)