Tuesday, February 22, 2005

"I walked back to the hotel in the rain."

Warren Ellis shares his thoughts on the passing of Hunter S. Thompson. It's pretty much how I feel, so I'm just reposting it here, for anyone who doesn't belong to Warren's mailing list.

bad signal

People keep asking if I'm going to
say something about the death of
Hunter S Thompson. Hell, a couple
of newspapers have asked. This
is because (for the sake of the
Marvel readers who have joined us)
I wrote a graphic novel series called
of whose protagonist was somewhat
influenced by Thompson's writing,
persona and life.

I got the news from a friend at CBS
at four in the morning, two minutes
after it hit the ticker. I was, and
am, numb. I've tried to write about
it a couple of times. When John
Peel died, I was wrecked. This
time, I'm just numb.

I read an article a few years ago,
that I haven't seen cited in the
obituaries yet, wherein it's stated
that Thompson's body was pretty
much packing up on him. His
stomach was having problems with
toxic substances like, um, food,
and his diet was mostly liquid,
mashed avocado and yoghurt. He'd
spent time in a wheelchair in recent
years. His drug use had always been
exaggerated for comedic effect,
but, at 67, he'd been hammering
his body in a committed way for
some 50 years. And, at 67, you
don't grow back the bits you killed.
There's a fair chance he was looking
at years of dependency, chronic
illness, and listening to his own body
die by inches. Anyone would find
that frightening.

He always wore his influences on
his sleeve. JP Donleavy, Faulkner,
Mencken, Fitzgerald, Kerouac,
Hemingway. He used and re-used
the last line from A FAREWELL TO
ARMS, over and over: "I walked back
to the hotel in the rain." Legend
has it that he retyped a Hemingway
novel to understand how the writer
got his effects.

Hemingway, of course, shot himself
in the head. Old and sick and unable
to live up to his own ideas on manhood.

I always thought it peculiarly apt
that the man who wrote that line,
whose work was all about keeping
the expression of human feeling
underneath the surface, sat
somewhere quiet and alone and put
a shotgun in his mouth.

Hunter Thompson waited until his
young wife left the house, and then
shot himself in the head with a
pistol. He must have been quite
aware that either she, or his son,
there in the house with his grandson,
would find his corpse. Dead bodies
don't lay neatly. They splay,
spastic and awful. There is often

I nev er met Thompson. Had the
opportunity a couple of times --
magazines wanting to send me out
to Woody Creek, that kind of
thing -- but turned them down. I've
been lucky so far, in meeting my
great influences. But they don't
always go well. Friends of mine have
had horrific experiences with their
personal heroes, and it often leaves
them unable to enjoy the work
afterwards. And I wanted to keep
the work. So I don't know what kind
of man he was.

And the numbness, in part, comes
from now finding that he was the
kind of man that'd let his family
find him like that. I have a personal
loathing for suicide. It's stupid and
selfish and ugly and cowardly and
reeks of weakness. Someone said
to me yesterday about Thompson,
"What a ripoff." And I kind of know
what he meant. It's become
convenient to write Thompson off
as parody in recent years, and
there's a case to be made that he
peaked around the age of 36, with
CAMPAIGN TRAIL '72. But he could
still make me laugh, even in the
most recent collection, HEY RUBE.
" 'We have many cigarettes here,'
I said suavely" still makes me smile.
Writing had clearly become
difficult, and a job, but every now
and then you'd get a clear burst
of the old anger, as in his support
for Lisl Auman (google it). He was
done with the big fireworks, but
the devil was still in him. Probably
his great work of the last twenty
years was in Being Hunter Thompson.
In performance.

But how you leave the stage is at
least as important as how you enter
it. And he left it alone in a kitchen
with a .45, dying in -- and wouldn't
it be nice if it were the last time
these words were typed together? --

-- dying in fear, and loathing.

Warren Ellis
down by the sea
February 2005
Sent from mobile device
probably from the pub