Friday, February 8, 2013

#632: Scrambling for $$$

Good Ghod, it's HUGE! It's a MONSTER! Well, it took MONTHS, but I FINALLY got thru a re-read of Hunter S. Thompson's FEAR AND LOATHING IN AMERICA (2000), 730 pages of his letters from the mid-'60s thru the mid-'70s.
Should note up-front that this massive book is NOT on the same level as FEAR AND LOATHING ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL '72, FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS, HELL'S ANGELS, THE GREAT SHARK HUNT, or whatever your personal fave HST work is. It's more about what went on behind-the-scenes while those books were written & after they were published, & how those books changed Thompson's life.
& what we mostly see here -- especially in the 1st 1/2 of the book -- is HST scrambling for $$$, or trying 2 nail-down details about $$$: How much is he going to get paid for writing a piece or a book? Will the publisher cover his "research" expenses? How much will it cost to buy his house near Aspen & the land around it? How much does he owe someone? How much can he lend? Will the charge-card companies hold off for another month? Will his publisher reimburse him 4 Xpenses so the charge-card companies won't come break his legs? Etc.
What is clear here is that the picture of HST as a loudmouthed recluse devouring his earnings thru massive intake of alcohol & drugz is pretty wrong. Thompson didn't earn much $$$ at least up until he started speaking on college campuses in the mid-'70s. Up until then he's still worried about whether American Express or Carte Blanche will cut him off.
He worries about resurrecting a novel he wrote in the early '60s (THE RUM DIARY) -- just so he can get the $$$. He agonizes 4 YEARS about a massive book on "The Death of the American Dream," which never appears -- tho he gets 2 keep the advance from Random House & the book SORT OF appears much later -- as the GREAT SHARK HUNT best-of.
He wonders where the $$$ went from HELL'S ANGELS, whether Ballantine Books delivered all the paperback copies down a sewer somewhere. Several times he refers to FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS as "a commercial failure." He begs Random House & Ballantine sevral times 4 accounting figures, & many of his letters end with the phrase "Please send the check."
Doesn't mean there isn't some good stuff here. The letters that were obviously written 4 fun R hilarious -- & when Thompson gets angry at someone, look out. THOSE letters will make you laff out loud.
There is a vicious & hilarious series of letters 2 a lowlife TV-station-mgr in Colorado who keeps pre-empting HST's favorite morning news show ... & a startling sequence of letters showing the love-hate relationship HST had with ROLLING STONE editor/publisher Jann Wenner -- especially the letters HST sent after Wenner sent him 2 Vietnam 2 cover the fall of Saigon in '75 ... then cancelled HST's expenses, medical coverage & life insurance. These letters will NOT make you laff. & yet, Thompson kept writing 4 Wenner 4 a couple more years....
Complaints? Well, it's way too long, of course. & many of the letters in the 1972 section already appeared in CAMPAIGN TRAIL, as memos from the road, updates from HST 2 Wenner on how things were going. Oh, & the book has the most useless & redundant footnotes I've ever encountered -- some1 thinks the readers R idiots. Or at least have no long-term memory.
I 1st read F&L/AM about a decade ago, right after it came out in paperback, & I got practically nothing out of it. This time around it was worth it -- but it takes TIME 2 get in2: it took me about 4 MONTHS 2 get thru, with MANY interruptions. Worth reading, but mostly as a peek behind-the-scenes. If you're already a big HST fan, make sure you read CAMPAIGN TRAIL, GREAT SHARK HUNT, HELL'S ANGELS and LAS VEGAS 1st....
1nce I regain my strength, I'm hoping 2 attack HST's 1st volume of letters from the mid-'50s 2 mid-'60s, THE PROUD HIGHWAY. Yeezus, 660 pgs. Don't wait up....

No comments: