We all think of “Gonzo” journalism and wild antics when someone mentions Hunter S. Thompson. The quotation, “buy the ticket, take the ride,” will most likely pop into your head the second you hear his name. While he did live a life that many of us are afraid to even entertain, he was able to do so because he was dedicated to his craft. He was a student of the world and sought to be the best in everything that he did.
In Anita Thompson’s book, The Gonzo Way, she writes that, “although he was indeed the embodiment of sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll, that was not actually Hunter’s essence. His essence is what enabled him to maintain his free spirited attitude and still earn a living. And he not only earned a living, but he developed a legacy.”
Here are five reasons why Hunter S. Thompson is one of the greatest literary legacies of the modern era. They show that although he at times appeared out of control, he was keenly aware of both his actions and surroundings.
5. He Was A Relentless Researcher
Whether he was writing about the Hell’s Angels or an NFL game, Hunter wanted to get it right. He spent a year riding with the motorcycle crew to produce what is arguably his greatest work. That time was not all fun and games. Prior to it, he studied everything he could in order to prepare. He knew the role that hands on experience played in order to transform research into an accurate reality. He approached topics from sports to philosophy in the same way. He believed that in order to learn and improve, one must read the classics and study as much on a topic as possible.
4. He Was Always Writing
We all know about the 10,000 hours concept from Malcolm Gladwell. There is no doubt that Hunter cracked 10,000 hours early on in his life when it came to writing. When he didn’t have something to write, he would copy pages of F. Scott Fitzgerald or Ernest Hemingway in an attempt to train his hands to write like them. His work ethic did not quit nor did it suffer despite his wild lifestyle. His schedule may have been unconventional, but he knew the importance of making his craft a regular part of his life.
3. He Saw A Use For Everything
Anita Thompson said that Hunter never threw anything away in terms of his writing. Since he wrote about nearly everything in his life, one can only imagine how much of a hoarder he must have looked like (especially with writing done prior to the digital age). But, within all of that stuff, was a system that he understood. He referenced writings from his teenage years in his later works. Hunter even wrote The Rum Diary and hung onto it for years before publishing the book. He chronicled his life in a way that was fitting for a journalist.
2. He Understood His Audience
Whether he was writing a book or a column for ESPN, Hunter knew his audience. He knew what topics people relate to and how to use metaphor and subtlety to his advantage. As a student and lifelong follower of politics, he found ways to weave the current political climate into all of his works in an effort to expose readers to what was happening in the world. On a more human level, he knew what he represented to people. Through his actions, Hunter purposefully helped the world learn something about itself. He held up a mirror to the world in an effort to change it for the better. His campaign for sheriff in Pitkin County, Colorado was one example of Hunter understanding what politics and life are all about. He emphasized the “we” in everything and saw the need to always strive for the ideal and the greater good.
1. He Surrounded Himself With Great Minds
Hunter S. Thompson was unique. But, that didn’t mean that he stood alone. He constantly surrounded himself with other creative, intelligent, and reputable minds. Whether it was political leaders, great artists, philosophers, writers, or lawyers, Hunter knew how to improve himself with the guidance of experts. He did great research and work on his own, but he saw the importance of academic discussion and review. Sure, a conversation with him may have taken place at three in the morning, or with him parading about the room in a ridiculous manner, but the content of the interaction was always what mattered most. There is a reason he is considered brilliant and that is because he saw the value in a shared academic pursuit of life.