A mad symphony that plays harmoniously on the discordant strings of Thompson’s wild life.
Thompson (The Rum Diary, 1998, etc.) is best known as the creator of Gonzo Journalism, and his letters display the raw, sneering nerve that is the hallmark of high Gonzo style. His correspondence provides a good helping of both the incisive social commentaries and the hyperbolic misadventures for which the author is famed, as well as a veritable rogues’ gallery of confidantes, soul brothers, literary compadres, and fellow revolutionaries who seem just as maniacal and self-obsessed as the Doctor himself. Spanning the years from Nixon’s election to the Bicentennial, these pieces render with unnerving realism the atmosphere of chaos and insanity that permeated the country—which itself, under Thompson’s blurry gaze, seemed on the verge of imminent collapse. Some of the most affecting letters are those to and from Oscar Acosta, the Hispanic lawyer and civil-rights activist who was the inspiration for the psychotic Samoan attorney of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (and who would later die under mysterious circumstances). Other highlights include letters to bored housewives in search of literary fame, a cryptic message slamming Charles Kuralt for his “Nero act,” praise for Tom Wolfe, and a formal and somewhat aggrieved rejection of Katherine Graham’s offer of the editorship of Newsweek (an offer that was clearly made only in the author’s febrile imagination). The final coup de grâce is a hilarious account of Thompson’s ill-fated “Freak Power” campaign in his run for political office as the Sheriff of Aspen.
A biting self-portrait of a comic genius, a man whose greatest creation of all was himself.