“Who is responsible for this Rudeness? What kind of bigoted freak came up with the idea that Terrorizing 200 million football lovers on Super Bowl weekend is ‘Good for national Security interests’?”- Hunter S. Thompson
Me: Hey, I’m looking for a book.
Dude at Barnes and Noble: Sure, what’s the name?
Me: Hey Rube. Blood Sport, the Bush Doctrine and the Downward Spiral of Dumbness.
Dude at Barnes and Noble: …that’s an interesting subject…
True story that one. Let’s start with the obvious: this isn’t Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas. No book ever will be Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas (unless it’s another reprint). This is an independent piece and it’s the last book published while Hunter S. Thompson was alive.
Apologies for the energetic intro, but it’s a pet peeve of mine that sometimes people cling on to a single slice of an artist/writer/musician’s oeuvre while ignoring the rest. Sure, I do like Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas, but if you were to ask me which one is my fave book by Thompson, Fear & Loathing would be in fourth place, behind Fear and Loathing : On the campaign trail ’72 (a masterpiece of political analysis), The Great Shark Hunt (his best collection of articles) and The Rum Diary (soon in a cinema with Johnny Depp).
So it was a little bit of trepidation and a lot of that completist mindset that I got Hey Rube. Blood sport, the Bush Doctrine and the Downward Spiral of Dumbness. Took me a few reads. That would be the gist of the review. Call it a Marmite book, an acquired taste.
Not because it’s badly written, but since it’s a collection of his web columns for ESPN and the subject matter in the vast majority of them is Sports, a subject I find utterly boring, I couldn’t find a particular point to sink my teeth into. Or is it?
We have a saying in Mexico: “más sabe el diablo por viejo que por diablo”. The Devil knows best because of age, not because he’s the Devil. Basically: the observations of this ol’ Doc are very well spread and peppered around, never making it the driving point of the piece (with a few exceptions, like the 9/11 article), just letting it seep by through the sports-y gravelly layers of soil.
Still here? Good. It dawned to me on my third read (about a month ago) that all these columns were part of his Swansong: doing what he started doing (sports writing) while still doing what he loved doing (political commentary, ranting). The usual staples of “Gonzo” come with the usual wacky personalities of Mr. Thompson and a plethora of famous people being name-dropped (Benicio del Toro, Johnny Depp and a shitload more).
It’s not all self-indulgent. Between the running jokes about winning a Princess on a bet with a possible terrorist (!) and the paranoia sweeping the USA, there is a lot of good stuff that had to be said and he was one of the few that chose to give his voice a big roar. There’s a particular part where he starts talking about Lisl Auman. Here’s the link on what happened, but suffice to say, it’s true to his heart and his ideals that he keeps reminding people of this travesty while still going over the minutiae of sports.
Mind you, sports is a subject people will always be polarised about. There’s never a middle of the road statement; it’s “us vs. them” all the time and you don’t want to be on the loser’s side. Even if I dislike sports, there has to be something to say when all newspapers around the world have their own, big chunky sports section (especially back in Mexico) and the cultural section is sometimes a few columns hidden between ads for deviants and photos of barely dressed women.
I might be losing track of what this book is about. Because there is no plot in a collection of articles, only the clear, sound voice of a writer who should be judged by his other work instead of one book (which is a seminal book, though). Give this one a try and if it doesn’t fly for you, do try The Great Shark Hunt (for his take on articles on various subjects) or give The Rum Diary a go (it’s great). Then you can go for his magnum opus, Fear and loathing : On the campaign trail ’72. Seriously good stuff.
In closing: Selah.
You can read some of his ESPN columns here. Playboy has released a shitload of great articles which you can read.