It’s worth remembering that Hunter S. Thompson’s legacy, despite the diluted effect of decades of shallow imitation and mythmaking (of which he was in both cases as guilty as anyone), is essentially a moral one. His most famous drug-fueled dispatches rage against American wastefulness and complacency (and conservatism), and eventually turn their attention inward, diagnosing the inevitable impotence of the righteous drop-out.
But, as with anybody who’s widely read by people too young to relate what they read to anything but themselves, the signal-to-noise ratio of the discussion surrounding Thompson is appalling. This is what Gonzo: The Life of Hunter S Thompson, a new oral history of his life and times, apparently hopes to correct. (“[It]… could easily have succumbed to the same temptation that Hunter did: to celebrate the myth, to recount a numbing parade of hilarious, drug-addled Hunter stories, and to miss the man. Happily, [it’s] a rigorous and honest piece of work,” per the linked-to review.) So, tonight at the Barnes and Noble Union Square, the book’s editors, Thompson’s old Rolling Stone chums Jann Wenner and Corey Seymour, will head up a panel discussion on the man, the myth, the legend. (Yes, there’s a certain irony to the fact that it’s people from Rolling Stone who’re fighting the urge to sit back, reminisce, polish the trophies, and print the legend. I’m guessing nobody will mention that tonight.)