I'm James Maxey, the author of numerous novels of fantasy and science fiction. I use this site to discuss a wide range of topics, with a heavy emphasis on cranky, uninformed rants about politics and religion and other topics that polite people attempt to avoid. For anyone just wanting to read about my books, I maintain a second blog, The Prophet and the Dragon, where I keep the focus solely on my fiction. I also have a webpage where both blogs stream, with more information about all my books, at jamesmaxey.net.


Monday, February 21, 2005

Good-bye, Hunter.

I can't say I'm shocked to learn that Hunter S. Thompson has taken his own life. If one tenth of the stuff in his books is true, he was addicted to self-destruction for a long time now. You can't read "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" and not recognize a man driven by demons. Ah, but what demons.

By chance, I re-read Fear and Loathing last week. This was probably my sixth or seventh re-read--plus, I've seen the movie a half dozen times, and used to have a seriously abridged book on tape version of the story. No matter what the format, I always, always laughed at the line, "Jesus! Did I say that? Or just think it?" When asked what my favorite novel is, I never even hesitate.

I have spent much time analyzing Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, trying to figure out what makes it magic, at least to me. HST's other works never did much for me. Hell's Angels was interesting, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail 72 was barely readable, Better than Sex had its moments. I always felt like Thompson was trying hard to recapture something in his later works, the mad energy that dances through FLLV, the manic depressive absurd stupid wise worldview that makes it seem perfectly logical to contemplate getting your hands on a pineal gland and taking a big bite out of it, just to see what it will do to you. The chapter "A Horrible Experience with Terribly Dangerous Drugs" resonates with me like no other words ever put on the page--and why? I've never taken drugs, illegal ones anyway. Despite the occasional joke about it, I really don't drink--I'm too cheap to go to a bar and spend $50 on booze in one sitting. I can't stand the smell of beer. I'll occasionally have a margarita or a bloody mary, but seldom more than one in a sitting. To my knowledge, I've never been legally drunk.

So, again, why? Why would a story about a man overdosing on drugs until he experiences complete mental and physical collapse strike me as so funny? Why do I identify with the character? Why do I think, "Yeah, I know how THAT feels!"

I think the closest thing to magic in this world comes through the process of creation. Whether painting, singing, building a birdhouse, writing--in the best moments you tap into something, something Thompson called "the main nerve," and you practically vibrate with the power of pulling something out of nothing. And I think Thompson was tapped in during those moments he was writing Fear and Loathing. I think he surrendered himself to the act of creation and woke up with this strange and wonderful manuscript in his hands, then spent the rest of the life trying to figure out the how and why himself. I've felt it--I've had moments when I'm writing when I vanish--the story already exists--it's simply borrowing me to bring itself into the world. And the terrible thing about these moments is how wonderful they are--and how rare. You never know when the words you are typing will catch fire, come to life, become poetry instead of mere language. If you go for a long time without one of these moments, it haunts you. You are left wondering if it will ever come again, that magic, that power.

I suspect Thompson was one of the most haunted men on Earth.

I hope I'm completely wrong about the afterlife. I hope that every religion is wrong as well. I hope that Heaven is open to anyone. I am so often wrong about so many things. Good luck, Hunter. I hope Heaven is full of typewriters when you get there.

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