Thursday, September 2, 2010

Lori's Livres--Gonzo: The Life of Hunter S. Thompson by Corey Seymore, Jann S. Wenner

Gonzo: The Life of Hunter S. Thompson

Book Title/Author: Gonzo: The Life of Hunter S. Thompson by Corey Seymour and Jann S. Wenner
Publisher/Year Published: By Back Bay Books in 2007.
How I got a hold of this book: I bought this book from Borders.
Why I read this book: Um…Hunter S. Thompson is absolutely fascinating!
Rating: 5 stars because it’s amazingly well done.

Upon finishing Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, my second Hunter S. Thompson novel (The Rum Diary was my first), I did a search on my nook for Hunter S. Thompson.  I downloaded free samples of many of the returns.  This biography was one of them.  After reading the sample, which cut off in the middle of Johnny Depp’s foreword, I knew I had to get this book.  And I quickly did.  Like most of the books I own, it sat on my shelf for most of the summer, until one day I just had to start it.  I’m so glad I did.

This book is not your normal biography.  Shortly after Thompson committed suicide in 2005, Rolling Stone, for which Thompson was a prolific contributor for many years, did a memorial issue that comprised of contacting many of his old friends and gathering their stories.  The project kept growing though.  Over a hundred people were interviewed to share anecdotes and thoughts on Hunter for this book.  Seymour and Wenner, both of whom knew Hunter quite well, arranged their stories into a fluid narrative told in many voices.  It is essentially the transcripts of an oral history mixed together to all fit in chronologically.  I really liked that it was exclusively people who actually knew him that were telling the truth about Hunter from their experiences with him.  That gave it a very different feel from normal biographies when the writer probably doesn’t know their subject so intimately, if at all.  As a person who’s getting their masters in public history, this book is particularly interesting because it’s a project that I could someday replicate in some capacity.

As a reader who loved the two novels she’s read by Thompson so far, I was really excited to read about his life from those who actually knew him.  I was going to get to hear the good, the bad and the ugly.  They interviewed a wide range of people from childhood friends to other journalists to neighbors to his family (even his ex wife, which is where the bad and the ugly came in).  Seriously--Jimmy Buffet, Jack Nicholson, Angelica Huston, President Jimmy Carter, Marilyn Manson and Johnny Depp were all interviewed for this book.  All along, I’ve made the comparison between Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises and Thompson’s The Rum Diary.  That was because Hunter wanted The Rum Diary to be The Sun Also Rises for the Caribbean.  Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald, two of my favorite authors, were major influences on Hunter.  I also read that Hunter had a major problem with meeting deadlines and tended to put off work until three or four days before deadline and then work around the clock until he finished…and let other people, who hadn't been sleeping the past few days either, do the polishing.  I relate to this because I was definitely struggling to meet this fast-approaching deadline to review this book.  Unfortunately, I didn't have anyone to turn my notes into a coherent review.

The reader quickly realizes that Hunter was quite a character, but he wasn’t crazy.  He only seems so because he facilitated the craziness that ensued wherever he went.  Normally when you read books by or about people on drugs, the narrative can become distorted at times.  Not so with this book.  But that's probably because the people who are telling the story were (probably) pretty, relatively sober when they were giving their interviews.  This book made me feel like I have been missing on some life.  But then I remember that I don’t really want to, can’t really afford that lifestyle.

I’d recommend this book for anyone and everyone who loves Hunter’s work and wants to learn more about him.  He was very interesting.  I came away feeling like I knew him.  And the book was amazingly well done.  Five stars, for sure.


  1. I've been fascinated with him for quite some time. I remember when he passed away I had put something on Xanga (yes, throwback!) about it and people were like..umm who is that?

    Nice review! Sounds like a biography I'd like to get my hands on!

  2. I love Hunter S. Thompson! I also loved the documentary about him also called Gonzo.

    My favorite thing about him is that he went by "Dr." even though he never even went to college. Hahaha.

  3. IngridLola, He actually paid $15 (or $10, some small amount) to get a doctorate in divinity from a mail in thing. It was kind of a bizarre story (surprise, surprise).


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