From the king of “Gonzo” journalism and bestselling author who brought you Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas comes another astonishing volume of letters by Hunter S. Thompson.
Brazen, incisive, and outrageous as ever, this second volume of Thompson’s private correspondence is the highly anticipated follow-up to The Proud Highway. When that first book of letters appeared in 1997, Time pronounced it "deliriously entertaining"; Rolling Stone called it "brilliant beyond description"; and The New York Times celebrated its "wicked humor and bracing political conviction."
Spanning the years between 1968 and 1976, these never-before-published letters show Thompson building his legend: running for sheriff in Aspen, Colorado; creating the seminal road book Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas; twisting political reporting to new heights for Rolling Stone; and making sense of it all in the landmark Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72. To read Thompson's dispatches from these years—addressed to the author's friends, enemies, editors, and creditors, and such notables as Jimmy Carter, Tom Wolfe, and Kurt Vonnegut—is to read a raw, revolutionary eyewitness account of one of the most exciting and pivotal eras in American history.
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Hunter S. Thompson was born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky. His books include Hell's Angels, Fear and Loathing at Rolling Stone, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72, The Rum Diary, and Better than Sex. He died in February 2005.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
From Chapter One
OWL FARM -- WINTER OF '68:
1967 was the year of the hippy. As this is the last meditation I intend to write on that subject, I decided, while composing it, to have the proper background. So, in the same small room with me and my typewriter, I have two huge speakers and a 100 watt music amplifier booming out Bob Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man." This, to me, is the Hippy National Anthem. It's an acid or LSD song -- and like much of the hippy music, its lyrics don't make much sense to anyone not "cool" or "with it" or "into the drug scene." I was living in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury district when the word "hippy" was coined by San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen -- who also came up with "beatnik," in the late 1950s -- so I figure I'm entitled to lean on personal experience in these things. To anyone who was part of that (post-beat) scene before the word "hippy" became a national publicity landmark (in 1966 and 1967), "Mr. Tambourine Man" is both an epitaph and a swan-song for the lifestyle and the instincts that led, eventually, to the hugely-advertised "hippy phenomenon."
Bob Dylan was the original hippy, and anyone curious about the style and tone of the "younger generation's" thinking in the early 1960s has only to play his albums in chronological order. They move from folk-whimsy to weird humor to harsh social protest during the time of the civil rights marches and the Mississippi summer protests of 1963 and '64. Then, in the months after the death of President Kennedy, Dylan switched from the hard commitments of social realism to the more abstract "realities" of neo-protest and disengagement. His style became one of eloquent despair and personal anarchism. His lyrics became increasingly drug-oriented, with double-entendres and dual meanings that were more and more obvious, until his "Rainy Day Women #12 & 35" was banned by radio stations from coast to coast...mainly because of the chorus line saying "Everybody must get stoned...."
By this time he was a folk hero to the "under thirty generation" that seemed to be in total revolt against everything their elders were trying to believe in. By this time, too, Dylan was flying around the country -- from one sold-out concert to another -- in his private jet plane, worth about $500,000. His rare press conferences were jammed by reporters who treated them more like an audience with a Wizard than a question and answer session with an accidental public figure. At the same time, Dylan's appearance became more and more bizarre. When he began singing in Greenwich Village about 1960 his name was Bob Zimmerman and he looked like a teen-age hobo in the Huck Finn tradition...or like the Nick Adams of the early Hemingway stories. But by 1965 he had changed his last name to Dylan & was wearing shoulder-length hair and rubber-tight, pin-stripe suits that reflected the colorful & sarcastically bisexual image that was, even then, becoming the universal style of a sub-culture called "hippies."
This focus on Dylan is no accident. Any culture -- and especially any sub-culture -- can be at least tentatively defined by its heroes...and of all the hippy heroes, Bob Dylan was first and foremost. He appeared at a time when Joan Baez was the Queen Bee of that world of the young and alienated...but unlike Joanie, who wrote none of her own songs and preferred wistful ballads to contemporary drug anthems, Dylan moved on to become the voice of an anguished and half-desperate generation. Or at least that part of a generation that saw itself as doomed and useless in terms of the status-quo, business-as-usual kind of atmosphere that prevailed in this country as the war in Vietnam went from bad to worse and the United States, in the eyes of the whole world's "under thirty generation," seemed to be drifting toward a stance of vengeful, uncontrolled militarism.
The fact that this viewpoint wasn't (and still isn't) universal deserves a prominent mention, but it has little to do with the hippies. They are a product of a growing disillusion with the military/industrial realities of life in these United States, and in terms of sheer numbers, they represent a minority that doubles and triples its numbers every year. By 1967 this minority viewpoint had emerged, full-blown, in the American mass media...and it obviously had a powerful appeal -- at least to the publishers, editors and reporters who measured the public taste and found it overwhelmingly ready for a dose of hippy articles. The reason for this is the reason the hippies exist -- not necessarily because of any inherent worth of their own, but because they emphasize, by their very existence, the same uneasy vacuum in American life that also gave birth to the beatniks some ten years earlier. Not even the people who think all hippies should be put in jail or sent to the front-lines in Vietnam will quarrel with what is usually accepted as the Hippy Ethic -- Peace, Love, and Every Man for Himself in a Free-Wheeling Orgy of Live and Let Live.
The hippies threatened the establishment by dis-interring some of the most basic and original "American values," and trying to apply them to life in a sprawling, high-pressure technocracy that has come a long way, in nearly 200 years, from the simple agrarian values that prevailed at the time of the Boston Tea Party. The hippies are a menace in the form of an anachronism, a noisy reminder of values gone sour and warped...of the painful contradictions in a society conceived as a monument to "human freedom" and "individual rights," a nation in which all men are supposedly "created free and equal"...a nation that any thinking hippy will insist has become a fear-oriented "warfare state" that can no longer afford to tolerate even the minor aberrations that go along with "individual freedom."
I remember that pre-hippy era in San Francisco as a good, wild-eyed, free-falling time when everything seemed to be coming out right. I had an exciting book to write, and a publisher to pay for it, and a big chrome-red motorcycle to boom around the midnight streets wearing a sweatshirt and cut-off levis and wellington boots, running from angry cop cars on the uphill blocks of Ashbury st, doubling back suddenly and running 90 miles an hour up Masonic toward the Presidio...then gearing down, laughing, on the twisting black curves with the white line leading through the middle of that woodsy fortress, past the MP shack out to the crowded lights on Lombard st, with the cold Bay and the yacht club and Alcatraz off to the left and all the steep postcards of cable car San Francisco looking down from the other side. Getting off Lombard to avoid the lights and roaring down Union st, past the apartment where that girl used to live and wondering who's up there now, then around the corner by the dentist's office (and I still owe that man two hundred and eleven dollars. Pay him off, pay all those old debts...who else do I owe? Send a bill, you bastards. I want to flush those beggar memories...).
Around the corner and down a few blocks on Union to the Matrix, a blank-looking place on the right, up on the sidewalk and park between those two small trees, knowing the cops will come around yelling and trying to ticket the bike for being off the street (Park that motorcycle in the gutter, boy...). Maybe seeing Pete Knell's orange chopper parked in that gutter. Pete was then the talking spirit of the Frisco Angels and later president of that doomed and graceless chapter...sometimes he played a banjo in the Drinking Gourd up on Union, but that was before he became a fanatic.
The Matrix, womb of the Jefferson Airplane. They owned part of the club when it still served booze, and maybe they own it all now. They've rolled up a lot of points since that night when I reeled through the door with no money, muttering "Jerry Anderson invited me," and then found Jerry somewhere in back, listening to his wife Signe wailing out in front of the Airplane's half-formed sound. Signe with the trombone voice, and Marty Balin polishing his eternal signature song that he titled, for some wrong reason, "And I Like It." I recall telling Jerry, while he paid for my beer, that this Jefferson Airplane thing was a surefire famous money bomb for everybody connected with it...and later calling Ralph Gleason, the Chronicle's special pleader, to tell him the Airplane was something worth hearing. "Yeah, sure," he said. "People keep telling me about these groups; I try to check em out -- you know how it is." Sure, Ralph...not knowing if he remembered that about a year earlier I'd pushed another group on him, a group that almost immediately got a record contract without help and then exploded into oblivion when Davy, the lead singer, choked to death on his own vomit in an elegant house on the beach in Carmel.
But about a year after the Airplane opened at the Matrix, Gleason wrote the notes for their first record jacket.
The Jefferson Airplane is another key sound from that era -- like Dylan and the Grateful Dead. And Grace Slick, who made even the worst Matrix nights worth sitting through. In that era she was carrying a hopeless group called The Great Society, which eventually made it by croaking the group and going off in different directions. But Grace Slick was always my best reason for going to the Matrix. I would sit back in the corner by the projection booth and watch her do all those things that she later did with the Airplane and for LOOK magazine, but which seemed so much better then, because she was her own White Rabbit....I was shocked to learn she was married to the drummer. But I got a lot of shocks in that era...my nerves were pretty close to the surface and everything registered. It's hard to understand now, why "things seemed to be coming out right." But I remember that feeling, that we were all making it somehow. And the only one around who had already made it was Ken Kesey, who seemed to be working overtime to find the downhill tube. Which he eventually did, and I recall some waterhead creep accusing me (in the L.A. Free Press) of "giving away" Kesey's secret address in Par...
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