Review of Hunter S. Thompson's new book "Hey Rube."
"Hey Rube" lacks the magic that kept Hunter in the tower of literary song for so long. Where he once shone bright as a welding torch in the junkyard, somebody or something has been tinkering with the fuel knobs lately and his famous glow has diminished. Other gonzo authors no doubt feel comfortable with this, believing his greatness is now approachable, even achievable. But hell, not even the universal genius of Einstein shone as bright in the twilight years of his life, and only a fool would think it somehow moved the goal posts closer. Hunter's new book is a natural easing back on the pedal, a law of nature that even he can't defy - despite the number of other natural laws he's broken by living this long on a diet of toxins so horrible that he must surely struggle to find honest medical insurance.
Hunter S. Thompson, father of Gonzo Journalism and author of over a dozen books on topics from The Hells Angels, Las Vegas & The American Dream, to Politics and Sports, now at the luminous age of 67, is still carving his initials ever deeper into the laureate's desk. To me, Hunter stands across the years as a writer of genius; an author of nerve, talent, insight and creativity - and this latest work is yet another step up the ladder, another rung ahead of the rest. Sure, not as large a stride he has taken with previous work - where he could bound four or five leaps ahead of the pack with a single essay - but it's a step none-the-less; a step in an infinite series that seems to keep Hunter one pace ahead of his peers on any subject he ponders.
Yet "Hey Rube," essentially a collection of his sports column writings on ESPN's website, is lacking. There is no great eye in the sky view, little of Hunter's famous and intelligent insights on the human condition. It is like killing and skinning the beast only to find that somehow the heart is missing. How could it be? Did the editors snatch the work first - stealing the manuscript from his desk late in the night, before he'd instilled the life giving ink, the literary blood into the skeleton?
Possibly. Hunter is a man with a view that the Bush family will understand but not appreciate. Their growing sphere of influence is as encompassing and clueless as Charlotte's web; they would've seen this book coming from a long way off, and fixed it, like only they can do.
And it's a shame, an opportunity lost not only for Hunter fans, but for all of us. There has never been a more opportune time, a more urgent need for a loud and clear trumpet call to the rank and file citizen, a firing of the imagination and passion of man, than there is today. Traditionally Hunter has been the piper many of us followed, but in handing the instrument across the generations, somewhere the brass was lost - like that one ring that ruled them all - and now standing in the doorway, staring at the horizon all he can offer us is a distant mutter..."Hey Rube, look at the sunset."
Well, it's not over, he's not dead. As long as we show a flicker of humanity we can hole-up, wait for further musings, news - and god bless us - wait for direction. I refuse to believe this is the end, with even the man himself going out on a whimper. I may have closed the book, but I refuse to shelve Hunter and all he means to so many.