The Edge … There is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over. The others–the living–are those who pushed their control as far as they felt they could handle it, and then pulled back, or slowed down, or did whatever they had to when it came time to choose between Now and Later.

-Hunter S Thompson, Songs of the Doomed


… [was] Frank Mankiewicz … talking in the past, present or future when he said … that he learned from Robert Kennedy that “the practice of American politics … can be both joyous and honorable.” … I think it’s important not to avoid the idea that reality in America might in fact be beyond the point where even the most joyous and honorable kind of politics can have any real effect on it. And I think we should also take a serious look at the health/prognosis for the whole idea of Participatory Democracy, in America or anywhere else.

-Hunter S Thompson, Songs of the Doomed

See, I didn’t realize until about halfway through the campaign that people believed this stuff. I assumed that like the people I was around, and like myself, they were getting their primary coverage of the campaign from newspapers, television, radio, the traditional media.

I think that people took it seriously because politics, particularly presidential campaigns and the President and the White house, have always been sacred cows in this country, almost as if the President ruled by divine right. Especially since the start of the age of television.
Some people have that kind of respect for these people. I don’t, any more than I have respect for police and chambers of commerce. I have respect for quite a few things, quite a few people. Politicians just don’t happen to be among them. Just because a person can subject himself to the degradations of a lifetime in politics and finally end up in the White House is certainly no reason to respect him, as Nixon has recently given us elegant evidence to confirm.

-Hunter S Thompson, Songs of the Doomed

[S]o far we hadn’t seen that special kind of face that I felt we would need for a lead drawing. It was a face I’d seen a thousand times at every Derby I’d ever been to. I saw it, in my head, as the mask of the whiskey gentry–a pretentious mix of booze, failed dreams and a terminal identity crisis; the inevitable result of too much inbreeding in a closed and ignorant culture.

Pink faces with a stylish Southern sag … burnt out early or maybe just not much to burn in the first place. Not much energy in the faces, not much curiosity. Suffering in silence, nowhere to go after thirty in this life, just hang on and humor the children. Let the young enjoy themselves while they can. Why not?

-Hunter S Thompson, The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved

Songs of the Doomed by Hunter S Thompson

When I was 25, I lived for eleven months in a small tourist town called Airlie Beach. It was an ugly, fascinating place, a backpacker outpost of 3000 locals and twice as many tourists on any given day. The fascinating thing about it was that it was the kind of place where if you shamed yourself–drink too much, sleep with the wrong person, get into a fight–all you had to do was lay low for five days and everyone you’d met or known in the town would have left, moved on, permanently out of your life, if you so choose. And there was a lot of intemperate drinking, misguided sex and incendiary violence.

After I left, I wanted to write a book about Airlie Beach. I wanted to write about the artificial lagoon the locals called the ‘sperm bank’, the Casanova diving instructors, oysters kilpatrick, the bi-weekly wet t-shirt contests, bedbugs, early morning beer golf, the smell of stale sex when the algae was blooming in the waterways, and the most stomach- (and rectum-) clenching burgers I’ve ever willingly eaten, but most of all I wanted to write about this phenomenon of the perpetual clean slate and the attendant feeling of being utterly lost in body and spirit.

Then I read The Rum Diary by Hunter S Thompson and realised that my story had already been written and a hundred times better than I ever could. The moment had passed. Now, this is probably all I’ll ever write about Airlie Beach.

-Reading the Why

The Fight by Norman Mailer

It feels right to move from Hunter S. Thompson’s Hell’s Angels to Norman Mailer’s The Fight. Both big names with big reputations. Both pioneering journalistic works, with that subjectivity later honed by Hunter S. into his trademark gonzo, which is to say a hardboiled style where the journalist writes and lives his way to the centre of the story he is reporting.

I studied Mailer’s An American Dream in high school, a novel about a ex-congressman who murders his wife and gets away with it, looking back, a gateway book to adulthood for me. It was the last book I studied at school, and the last assignment, to write an extra, final, chapter to the book, kept me many nights from sleep, characters and conflicts swirling in my head, tossing and turning, reaching for my notepad, scratching down ideas almost indecipherable the next morning. In the end, I submitted my chapter by printing it in the same font and layout as the novel and binding the pages into my copy of the book. I learnt something about writing in those weeks, and I still feel the struggle and satisfaction today, twenty years on.

-Reading the Why

The daily press is the evil principle of the modern world, and time will only serve to disclose this fact with greater and greater clearness. The capacity of the newspaper for degeneration is sophistically without limit, since it can always sink lower and lower in its choice of readers. At last it will stir up all those dregs of humanity which no state or government can control.

-Sören Kierkegaard, The Last Years: Journals 1853-5 quoted in Hunter S. Thompson, Hell’s Angels