In what has to be one of the most enjoyable book reviews I have ever read – and without question the best book review I have ever read in The Wall Street Journal – Matt Labash explains why Fear and Loathing at Rolling Stone deserves a spot on the bookshelf of anyone who appreciates new journalism.
Labash is no fanboy. He, too, shakes his head at the self-caricature that Thompson became not long after Ronald Reagan took office, when his antics and legend outshone his writing. But Labash reminds us that underneath all that was a man who, from about 1965 to 1980, was one of the best writers in America.
Thompson was a musician in prose, his words his rhythm section. He was Buddy Rich and Tito Puente and John Bonham rolled into one. His paragraphs kept perfect time—never laying a false beat. He often wrote to music, which he called “fuel.” “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” was written entirely to a live version of the Rolling Stones’s “Sympathy for the Devil.” Thompson felt writing should resemble a great song, that, like music, it should move people through the ear. Frequently, he would have guests at his Woody Creek, Colo., compound read passages aloud, telling them to slow down and just how to punch the emphasis, as he enjoyed the sound of his sentences hitting like blunt rocks. As a young writer, he’d gone so far as to re-type the works of Dos Passos and Fitzgerald, just to feel their cadences vibrate through his fingers.
I won’t take a stance either way. I’m biased, as Thompson more than any other writer inspired me to write.
Before I go and put the book in my Amazon shopping cart (for delivery when I make it back to my own writer’s retreat in December), though, I cannot help but imagine The Good Doctor’s mirth if he could only read the plaudits written about his Rolling Stone writing in the Wall Street Journal of all places.
- Buy the Ticket, Take the Ride (online.wsj.com)
- Hunter S. Thompson’s INCREDIBLE Possible Response To A Fan (huffingtonpost.com)
- Hunter Stockton Thompson (retrorambling.wordpress.com)
- Drug Fueled Journalism of the Day (tease.thedailywh.at)