Wednesday, 1 August 2007

A rum story

Rotten will be pumped up like a proselytising pastor on Pervitin following news that Johnny Depp is to reprise his role as Raoul Duke (yes, I can bandy his name around now that I’ve been cured of my ignorance) in a cinematic adaptation of HST’s autobiographical The Rum Diaries. Given the fashion these days of filming in Prague, perhaps there’s a chance of a bit role, although I guess it might be hard to dress up the city of a thousand spires to look like Costa Rica circa 1959. Depp himself is not a stranger to the city, having filmed From Hell there a few years ago. My Maori neighbour has a picture of himself and Depp from Prague when he worked a few days as the boom handler (is that what they call it?) on that film during a professional softball gig in CZ. He used to play for the New Zealand Black Sox national softball team – my neighbour that is, not Depp – which has won the World Championships five times running, so the players are in hot demand around the world. He knocked up his Czech girlfriend while over there, and that’s why we sometimes have Maori-Czech seven-year-old twins to look after.


Rotten said...

Hey that's cool. I don't remember the Rum Diaries so well, other than it's a fairly pedestrian tale of an idealistic young lad learning a bit about how the big bad world works.

What HST are you working on now, Kivak? If I may, I would suggest either Fear and Loathing in Vegas or Thompson's first joint, Hell's Angels.

When you're ready to move on to advanced Gonzology you'll need to pick up the 700-page brick known as Fear and Loathing in America: the Brutal Journey of an Outlaw Journalist. It's volume two of HST's collected letters. Vol. 1, The Proud Highway, is also worth a look, but Fear and Loathing in America offers a portrait of the good doctor at the height of his powers.

Among other stuff it contains the letters that were the genesis for the Vegas book (originally commissioned as a collective biography of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, which then morphed into a 100 page takedown of LBJ, scrapped after LBJ bowed out of the '68 presidential race, after which it floated around as the "Death of the American Dream Book" until HST finally squirted out the Fear and Loathing we know and love in a 72-hour whiskey and speed fueled writing bender. Fascinating stuff for anyone who's ever tried to lash together a longer piece of prose.)

Also included is HST's definitive essay on the beatnik/hippy phenomenon and real-time epistolary coverage of the '68 democratic convention, which transformed Thompson from a talented angry young man into a Certified Superfreak.

But beyond the Gonzo greatness the letters also show another, often overlooked aspect of Thompson: that he was right so damn often. I've mentioned before his warning that the Bush clan was multi-generational poison, issued in about 1990. Thompson also wrote a letter to LBJ shortly after the Kennedy hit telling him to stay the hell away from Vietnam when maybe ten people in the country not associated with the intelligence community even knew where the hell Vietnam was. HST also tipped Jimmy Carter as Ford's successor back when he was just an obscure southern governor in a well-stocked field of Dem hopefuls.

Yes, Kivak, it was a far cry from today's celebrity pundrity, fascinated as it is with Hillary's blouses, Jon Edwards's haircuts and the possibility that Barak Obama may be black but not black enough.

Rumor has it that Dr Thompson shot himself in a fit of devastating grief after stumbling upon the king bullsnake "Bush did it" 9/11 conspiracy story.

But Duke didn't need a conspiracy. Watching US public life crater into an absurd underworld where reality out-gonzos gonzo has been scary enough.

The spectacle of US public discourse plummeting into Nuremburg-esque leader worship after the Day the Fun Stopped (HST's moniker for 9/11) must have weighed extra heavily on the idealistic sensibilities of this freedom-loving southern gentleman.

It's sobering to think that this man, so cynical he declared "it's dirty pool and judo in the clinches from now on" after JFK was shot, who believed as far back as 1965 that the American Dream couldn't get any deader, buckled under the depravities of just the first half of the Bush Jr. years.

HST spent much of his life courting death, whether by riding with the Angels, ingesting roughly a pharmacy full of drugs every year, or engaging in uncountable firearm follies in his Colorado redoubt. The man seemed driven to mock the Reaper and come away the better. Yet five years of George II were all he could take before finally unwrapping the ol' twelve gauge lollipop for the last time. I'm going to get back to watching some American Idol reruns before I start thinking too hard about why we all don't do the same.


Kivak said...

Mate, what are you doing up at 7 in the morning? Couldn't get any sleep? That was an almost frighteningly sober comment. I'm just starting out with HST Paper 101 by reading Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas. Am about halfway through, so I'll reserve full judgement till I've reached the back cover. If you're still considering that 12 gauge lollipop, just pause to think about what we public service 9-5ers have to endure. If it weren't for a dim light at the end of an eight-month long tunnel, I'd be contemplating sucking on that baby myself.