Aside from the pure anger and sadness i’m feeling about Hunter S. Thompson’s death, what gets to me is the manner. And I do not mean suicide per se, but the idea that all we as readers, as fans, etc. can do now is speculate. I certainly understand his son’s statement about respecting his family’s privacy, but at the same time it displays a naivete that bothers me — half of anything I’ve said to anyone else about this in the past 24 hours is speculation, which ultimately of course doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter whether it was Dubya or mental illness or drugs or an accident or terminal illness or whatever that prompted HST to kill himself. What matters is yet another of our heroes is gone. We need to get used to it, but speaking for myself I find that a difficult concept to grasp. It’s hard to want to continue living when you know that everyone you ever looked up to is ready to shuffle off.
Speaking from a point that has little to do with his impact as a writer (though i think that cannot be overstated), and I hate to become a parody myself (too late!), but again, Louisville (blah blah). My hometown, the place that defined me as much as i defined it, was such a place of inspiration and exasperation. I knew that even before I read HST. And he was just an inspiration for getting out (though not to belittle those that stayed), much less changing the world in his way (so he didn’t crumble all the towers, but that’s a pretty tall order for anyone). HST, Muhammed Ali, Slint (ha!), anyway, yeah you get the drift.
Someday, some of HST’s Louisville contemporaries — friend and foe alike — will put together the true early portrait of the man (one of his best friends was the real estate mogul Paul Semonin) (one of his worst enemies was David Grubbs’s dad) (he was known even in high school for snaking gasoline for his motorcycle if you left your car in your driveway). I only know some bits and pieces. and I never met him, nor even got to see him speak, nor even got to see him just ramble drunkenly onstage, like at his last appearance in his hometown (Depp in tow). I just knew his writing, and an awful lot of it I knew before I even got to read it.
I have a short piece in the works here about how excited I was again for Louisville, for 2005 being a good rediscovery year. I’ll still post it, and it will still be exuberant, but I think now it will have to be tinged with some sort of sadness to reflect on HST’s passing.