On January 28, 2015 Ron Whitehead inducted Hunter S. Thompson into the Kentucky Writers Hall of Fame. The ceremony took place, with a standing room only audience, at The Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning in Lexington, Kentucky. After Hunter’s induction, Wendell Berry became the first living author to be inducted. KET, Kentucky’s PBS affiliate, will air the one hour program in February. Here’s what Ron Whitehead had to say by way of honoring his friend Hunter S. Thompson.
If life is a dream, as some suggest, sometimes beautiful sometimes desperate, then Hunter S. Thompson’s work is the terrible saga of the ending of time for The American Dream. With its action set at the heart of darkness of American materialist culture, with war as perpetual background, playing on the television, Hunter S. Thompson, like the prophets of old, shows how we, through greed and power lust, have already gone over the edge. As Jack Kerouac, through his brilliant oeuvre, breathed hope into international youth culture, Thompson shows how the ruling power elite is not about to share what it controls with idealists yearning for a world of peace, love and understanding.
“Back at the motel we talked for a while about America, the South, England – just relaxing a bit before dinner. There was no way either of us could have known, at the time, that it would be the last normal conversation we would have. From that point on, the weekend became a vicious, drunken nightmare. We both went completely to pieces. The main problem was my prior attachment to Louisville, which naturally led to meeting with old friends, relatives…many of whom were in the process of falling apart, going mad, plotting divorces, cracking up under the strain of terrible debts or recovering from bad accidents.
Right in the middle of the whole frenzied Derby action, a member of my own family had to be institutionalized. This added a certain amount of strain to the situation, and since poor Steadman had no choice but to take whatever came his way, he was subjected to shock after shock.”
On February 20th it will be 10 years since Hunter died.
Right after his death I wrote Hunter Shaman Thompson is Dead, A Tribute. When I was invited to be Hunter’s presenter at his induction into the Kentucky Writers Hall of Fame I asked Ralph Steadman if he’d like for me to share any words.
Here’s Ralph’s reply:
“Hunter was always so perceptive and kind! He referred to my drawings as ‘Filthy Scribblings!’ – and also that I should not write – or I would ‘bring shame on my Family!’ His middle name is STOCKTON!!! He was wiser than any Shaman – so I wouldn’t hang that around his neck!! That would really bring shame….Enough already!!!!
“When the going gets weird the weird turn pro.”
We must look beyond the life of the artist to the body of work itself. That is the measure of success. Like those who have re-examined George Orwell’s 1984 to find a multi-layered literary masterpiece, we must look deep into Hunter S. Thompson’s work and discover the multi-layered messages. His books, especially the early ones and his letters, are literary masterpieces equal to the best writing ever produced.
“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved boy, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming ‘Wow! What a Ride!'”
January 28, 2015