Friday, March 04, 2005

Gonzo Darko

Hello, again, everyone.

Three things: Good news, bad news, and "the consolation of philosophy". The good news first.

I have to thank Keith and E. A couple of years ago they introduced me to a little movie called Donnie Darko. They knew that I would be drawn to the themes of time travel and (let's call it) Loophole Causality, because it's the kind of thing K. and I used to love to discuss at Barnes and Noble when we should have been working. Even though it took me a few viewings to grasp, as near as I could, the actual plot, every one was worth it. It's a movie that is friendly to subjectivity, and it's the kind of thing I like. If you haven't seen it, I'm not going to go into the details of the plot. Without spoiling anything: In the story, Donnie faces the possibility that he can greater serve humanity--and certainly his family and friends--by being, let's just say, absent.

Now the bad news:

Hunter S. Thompson, as most readers of this blog probably already know, killed himself last week at his Woody Creek, Co. compound, sitting in his writing chair at his typewriter, a glass of Chivas Regal at his side and a single word written in the center of a page of stationary: "Counselor." I couldn't venture to say what that means, and it's not the point, anyway. What I selfishly want to say is that Hunter was a hero of mine. What he did, I think, was to be fiercely loyal to the hardest Truths while taking the flimsy, Perceived Truths and dressing them up in monster suits and silly dresses. Which, if you think about it, is both wise and ballsy. Hunter Thompson was, to me, a modern American embodiment of my favorite literary character. He was a Mercutio. If Hemingway, long his idol, was brave Romeo running headlong at Apparent Reality with his sword thrust out blindly, Hunter was Mercutio, getting in there close, jabbing and weaving (like another Thompson hero, Muhammed Ali), making little nicks in the armor, and all the while making snarky commentary with a respectful--but perilously close--distance.

Consolation of Philosophy: (Apologies, Boethius, wherever you are.)

I was thinking about Hunter S. Thompson last night as I watched the recently released Donnie Darko Director's Cut. Without really spoiling much, we can say this: Donnie has to remove himself from his environment in order to have the the most powerful effect on it. It has become apparent that it is no longer an environment he can survive in and, more, one which he can offer some degree of relief with his absence. Hunter, apparently facing serious health issues (including, at least to some degree, physical dependence on others) also seems to have thought that his time--his relevance--was done. The night before he killed himself, he was given an expensive Italian scarf by his son and daughter-in-law. He performed a ritual exchange and gave his son a medal formerly owned by Oscar Zeta Acosta. You get the impression, reading him, that Hunter was not a man to mistake or undervalue ritual. It seems as if he knew--or perhaps after that night he decided that it was best to end with such a beautiful memory fresh in his mind. At any rate, it seems to have been a conscious decision and on his own schedule.

Whether or not you can ever justify suicide--for any reason--is not the discussion here. The intersection of this fantastical movie about time-travel and this real-life American writer, it occurs to me, is that Hunter Thompson's personality was so large that it is better suited to the parameters of Legend. His influence can range out beyond any physical limitation, now. No more will people ask "Where is he now?" or say "Well, his writing's not what it used to be". His relevance now, in a very real sense, transcends the temporal. And not just in his writing. People who knew Hunter will continue to tell stories of his surprising and disarming behavior to their children, and those stories will get passed down in an oral tradition that probably outweighs, in influence, anything that ever went through the New York Times bestseller list. This kind of longevity, let's call it, effects people in a way that a spirit limited by time and place never could. In this way, Hunter Stockton Thompson is a real-life Donnie Darko. His spirit--his writing and his life and his enduring legacy of thoughtful dissent--will continue to affect person after person in ways probably too miniscule to notice and too numerous, collectively, to count.

Spreading inspiration and influence from a locus outside of time, Hunter will continue to be a 'counselor' to all of us, and we, if we listen, can all be the better for it.

Res Ipsa Loquitur


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1/09/2006 2:16 PM  

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