Day 12

July 18th 1937
Hunter S. Thompson

If you’re going to be crazy, you have to get
paid for it or else you’re going to be locked up.”
– Hunter S. Thompson

The fall­out after the fail­ure of the Hip­pie Exper­i­ment? Well, it was nev­er going to be easy. That the voice of hope would come from a para­noid drug-fuelled nihilist with a bot­tom­less love for the promise of Amer­i­ca was, how­ev­er, an appo­site bless­ing. And so it is that Hunter S. Thomp­son takes his place in the SydArthur Fes­ti­val as the lit­er­ary rene­gade for whom W. Blake’s ‘road of excess’ quite lit­er­al­ly led to the palace of wis­dom. By drug­ging to the very edge of human capa­bil­i­ties, Thomp­son tore away every remain­ing psy­chic shield that had defend­ed him from his own West­ern Cul­ture. Then and only then was Thomp­son – by now naked, mewl­ing and defence­less – able to con­front those ‘dif­fi­cult truths’ fac­ing post-1960s Amer­i­ca. His rumi­na­tions were not some self-pity­ing apolo­gia but fun­ny, bru­tal­ly satir­i­cal, deeply insight­ful and, ulti­mate­ly, so very use­ful to a trau­ma­tised gen­er­a­tion who – when Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas was pub­lished in 1971 – had not yet even realised just how bad­ly they would need the death of their dream to be crys­tallised, let alone by a mem­ber of the Nation­al Organ­i­sa­tion for the Reform of Mar­i­jua­na Laws AND the Nation­al Rifle Association.

For a brief but crit­i­cal time, Thomp­son was the voice of the anti-estab­lish­ment – so icon­ic that he was even turned into a car­toon char­ac­ter in the sem­i­nal com­ic strip Doones­bury. But more to the point, so icon­o­clas­tic was he that he turned him­self into a real-life car­toon char­ac­ter – a delib­er­ate move to insert and thrust him­self into the cen­tre of the action in order to per­son­al­ly seek and tell the truth. And, as we know from the likes of Charles M. Schulz, have not some of the great­est pearls of wis­dom come from car­toons? Thompson’s pio­neer­ing Gonzo jour­nal­ism was self-par­o­dy­ing and self-sac­ri­fic­ing, a vision­ary artis­tic inno­va­tion that rede­fined satire and, for Thomp­son, would result in his becom­ing an unlike­ly suc­ces­sor to Mark Twain and a Great Amer­i­can Nov­el­ist in his own right.

A free­dom-seek­ing Lone Ranger, Hunter S. Thomp­son stead­fast­ly refused to tow any par­ty line. And like his 17th-cen­tu­ry Ranter brethren, Thomp­son was his own Pope, pre­sid­ing over him­self as an autonomous indi­vid­ual, ful­ly pre­pared to con­front the Beast from all sides. A great moral­ist in spite of him­self, he was a rum char­ac­ter with upstand­ing principles.

Sat Saturday
Sun Sunday
Mon Monday
Tue Tuesday
Wed Wednesday
Thu Thursday
Fri Friday
Day 1: Saturday Jul 7th
Day 2: Sunday Jul 8th
Day 3: Monday Jul 9th
Day 4: Tuesday Jul 10th
Day 5: Wednesday Jul 11th
Day 6: Thursday Jul 12th
Day 7: Friday Jul 13th
Day 8: Saturday Jul 14th
Day 9: Sunday Jul 15th
Day 10: Monday Jul 16th
Day 11: Tuesday Jul 17th
Day 12: Wednesday Jul 18th
Day 13: Thursday Jul 19th
Day 14: Friday Jul 20th
Day 15: Saturday Jul 21st
Day 16: Sunday Jul 22nd
Day 17: Monday Jul 23rd
Day 18: Tuesday Jul 24th
Day 19: Wednesday Jul 25th
Day 20: Thursday Jul 26th
Day 21: Friday Jul 27th
Day 22: Saturday Jul 28th
Day 23: Sunday Jul 29th
Day 24: Monday Jul 30th
Day 25: Tuesday Jul 31st
Day 27: Thursday Aug 2nd
Day 28: Friday Aug 3rd