One mustn’t forget, in looking at the works of Hunter S Thompson, to go back and visit his first book, which was ‘lost’ for decades until its eventual publication in 1998. This is different from Thompson’s other books in that it was a genuine attempt at a novel, with a plot and stories that didn’t necessarily happen to the author in real life, but were merely inspired by his surroundings. The book predates Gonzo and Thompson’s journalistic innovations, and comes from the period in his life when he was just another writer, trying to cut it working for a newspaper, and trying to write novels like his idols – Hemingway and Fitzgerald. Yet, even in those early days, Thompson was mapping out his future. According to David Hamilton’s memoir of his meeting with Thompson in South America, the young man was talking about journalists as participants and even actors, helping the events around them to unfold, rather than noting them as an outside. Continue Reading…
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“The usual assortment of stupid characters was assembled in Minetta’s. Joe Gould was sitting at a table.” And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks, Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs, 2008, (102).
The Minetta is a Greenwich Village tavern that opened in 1937 and was patronized by Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound, Eugene O’Neill, Joe Gould, and Jack Kerouac, though oddly, the Minetta website omits Kerouac. The current Minetta Tavern Restaurant is now described as “Parisian steakhouse meets classic New York City tavern.” A Minetta Black Label burger is a tasty $26. The place is so old fashioned, it’s like stepping back in time. I asked the bartender and waiter if there was any Kerouac or Burroughs or Gould memorabilia in house, but none was to be had. There are plenty of photos on the walls of past owner Eddie Sieveri, a boxer. And don’t miss the famous and hilarious shot of Sophia Loren giving Jayne Mansfield the eye—right across from the bar. Who is the Minetta character Joe Gould that Will Dennison mentions in Chapter 9 and Mike Ryko mentions a few times in Chapter 12 of And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks? If you read the afterword by James W. Grauerholz, he describes Joe Gould in two paragraphs (pages 209-210), and what a find it is.
Eccentric, Harvard-grad Joe Gould had been going around bohemian Greenwich Village, when it was bohemian, telling everyone about the great tome he was writing “An Oral History of Our Time,” the biggest unpublished book in the world. His (written) oral history was to contain all the stories he accumulated from all the people he met in New York living his outcast life. He’d been doing this for more than thirty-five years, everyone believed him, except it wasn’t true. He had no such book. He only carried around a portfolio stuffed with the same few short stories written over and over.
Gould broke with his family, one of the oldest in Massachusetts—the family had been in New England since 1635—and came to New York City in 1916. He lived a hand-to-mouth existence, not knowing where his next meal was coming from or his next quarter-a-night flophouse bed, if he was lucky enough to get one. He solicited money from people he knew and didn’t know. He called his panhandling the Joe Gould Fund and was both demanding and ungrateful about contributions received. Gould lived an anguished life filled with what he called “the three H’s”—homelessness, hunger, and hangovers.
Joseph Mitchell, a writer for The New Yorker, became interested in Gould and wrote a profile on him for the magazine in 1942. It was he who discovered Gould’s secret, there was no great book in the works. In 1964, some years after Gould’s death, Mitchell wrote another profile on him, and thus is the book Joe Gould’s Secret.
This book contains scraps of wisdom and has amusing things to say about radicals and bohemians and books and book publishing and writers, poets, and painters. Joe Gould was a big
enough “personality” to be mentioned by the unknown Kerouac in 1945, and big enough to be mentioned on the current Minetta website—where Kerouac is unmentioned.
Expect to be touched by Joe Gould’s Secret. As Kerouac writes in The Dharma Bums, “. . . I’d cried a little. After all a homeless man has reason to cry, everything in the world is pointed against him.”
Joe Gould’s Secret was made into a film by Stanley Tucci in 2000. The film was re-created in the same 1940s era as when And the Hippos was written.
It’s been a busy time here in the Beatdom offices, what with the launch of Beatdom Books and the preparation that is going into our next issue. So when Marty Beckerman wrote me and asked for a review of his new book, I said, “This better fucking be worth it.”
Of course, a part of me knew it would. Beckerman is a class act. He has written for numerous publications and has a couple of well respected books behind him. Hunter S. Thompson once called him a “morbid little bastard.”
His new book is called The Heming Way: How to Unleash the Booze-Inhaling, Animal-Slaughtering, War-Glorifying, Hairy-Chested, Retro-Sexual Legend Within… Just Like Papa. It is a comical biography of a man known for his machismo, written for a society that has no concept of manliness.
As you may have guessed, the book is no serious biography. It is a satirical guide to living like Hemingway in a world that quite frankly has no more room for such men, and few men with the interest to pursue such a life.
The book is a great read. It takes you through Hemingway’s life and passes comments about how manly his activities were, and how doing anything other than living “the Heming Way” is just plain girly. The book covers the expected topics of drinking (that’s hard liquor, not sissy cocktails), hunting (“A meal without meat is like sex without an orgasm.”) and what it means to be a man (being so tough that the only thing to kill you is yourself).
Beckerman carries the reader through with wit and intelligence, taking a shot at everything in his path. The book is available online and as a paperback, and comes highly recommended by the good people at Beatdom.
by Matt Gibson
Hunter S. Thompson
The theatre was dark and reeked with the stench of a hundred overfed accountants gorging on chemical drenched popcorn and syrup water. I’d been assigned to review No Country for Old Men for Rolling Stone, and was already a week past deadline, but had abandoned the assignment partly because when you eat as much mescaline as I had it’s very hard to focus on a predetermined task, and also because I realized what a fleecing the operation was. Fifteen dollars for a ticket. Eight dollars for popcorn. Four dollars for soda. This wasn’t art. It was a twisted perversion of the American dream, a herding of overweight suburbanites into giant pens with flashing pictures on the wall to stupefy them into paying outrageous prices for sickening foods.
I had brought my lawyer, a large hairy Samoan, and I explained this to him as we waited to purchase a package of Mentos, which is the only thing that will calm him in the throws of a powerful mescaline trip, but the mescaline was already batting his mind around like a squash ball. He kept looking around and talking about an agent and the ‘incident’ on his last trip to Batangas. Suddenly he muttered something about “the banana man” and ran down the up escalator, leaving a trail of sweatpants wearing housewives on the ground. I slipped into the theater.
The movie had started, but I was distracted by the raincoat-wearing pervert in front of me, who looked like the police sketch of a local pedophile. I was trying to get into position to snap his neck without drawing attention when I saw that a man further down in the theater kept turning to look at me. He was old and reptilian. Was this the agent that my lawyer had seen? Paranoia gripped me. Did I have any outstanding warrants? Was he an assassin? Or worse yet, a Republican? It was clear that I had to make a run for it and come up with an excuse for not finishing the article.
I ran out the emergency exit hoping that it would sound the alarm and empty the theater, but the alarm didn’t go off. There was a fire extinguisher in a glass case on the wall. I broke the glass and the alarm screamed. I sprinted back into the theater using the fire extinguisher to create a smokescreen. I thought I was in the clear, but as I ran up the aisle the agent leaped in front of me like an orangutan and punched me in the face. I awoke to my lawyer explaining to the theater manager that I was autistic and threatening to sue him for discrimination against the handicapped if he didn’t allow us to leave.
He pulled me to my feet and dragged me out my Cadillac, which we drove at top speed through the city, onto the interstate and headed for Vegas, where I had a friend who could give us some queludes to bring us back to our senses so that we could figure out who the agent was, and what he wanted.
Neal and I had been planning to see No Country for Old Men because Neal and I always dug Cohen brothers movies and how they created such funny-sad characters that mirrored the funny-sadness of life, but when we were in the Royal having a beer before the movie Neal met a this beautiful little thin-hipped waitress who was almost finished work and decided to boost a car and drive her out of the city and make her in a field – Neal apologized profusely because beneath his animal sexuality he’s really a golden hearted angel and I told him that it was OK and bought a bottle of port to keep me company and hid it under my raincoat but that was a bad idea because I got too drunk waiting for the movie to start and couldn’t see clearly or understand the story so I started meditating on this crazy cat behind me who was moving around and mumbling a crazy dark monologue about pedophiles and agents and he kept getting more and more agitated like a tortured dark theater ogre until finally he stood up and bounded down the aisle on great long ogre legs and rushed out the door – then the fire alarm went off and he rushed back in shooting plumes of white foam across the theater while running up the aisle – but then suddenly a man stood up and punched him, which I hated because I hate to see anything hurt, and can’t even bring myself to kill a mosquito, and because I came to think that he was a of mad angel here to save us all from ourselves so I ran out of the theater and kept running for two blocks before realizing that I’d left the port in the theater and that I didn’t have money to buy more and that even after encountering a wild angel of the night, when your wine is gone and you’re alone the city is a desolate place – so I sat down on and cried into my knees wishing that Neal and the waitress would pull up in a car blaring bebop on the radio and carry me off into the hopeless American night.
I sipped gin from the flask that Ezra had given me and I hid it under my coat whenever the usher walked past. The gin was cold and biting and helped to pass the time while I waited for the movie to begin. After a while the theater became dark and quiet. The movie began. It was No Country for Old Men by the Cohen brothers, who always made fine movies, so I expected to enjoy it.
The story followed a man who killed people for profit and fun, a cowboy who discovered a bag of money, and an idealistic policeman. The story was interesting and I liked it although it wasn’t much like the brothers’ previous movies. The writing was refined and the cinematography was good.
The experience was all very good except for a man several rows behind me who kept talking and moving around. I kept turning around to glare at him so that he would be quiet. Eventually the man stood up and ran out the emergency exit. A moment later the fire alarm went off and the man rushed back into the theater screaming “fire” and shooting a fire extinguisher into the crowd. I had been enjoying the movie a great deal and this made me very angry so, when he came near me I stood up and punched his face. I could tell he wasn’t a boxer because he had no legs. He fell down and shouted for others to attack me because I was an “agent” and going to take him away for “water boarding”, so I punched him again and put him out.
After that the movie was postponed until the police could come, and I had an appointment with Gertrude for aperitifs at the Royal, so I left. I can’t say much about this movie except that the beginning is different from anything that the Cohen brothers have made, but it’s probably as good as anything that they’ve made, and it may attract lunatics, but it’s probably worth seeing if you’re not afraid to box a lunatic.
by David S. Wills
Hunter never really liked Jack Kerouac’s On the Road — he thought the writing was kind of sloppy and romantic and oversentimental but he told me he thought Kerouac was a genius for two things: discovering Neal Cassady, whom Hunter thought was flat-out amazing, and using the literary construct of “looking for the lost dad I never had.” Neal was never properly raised by a father. He didn’t even know whether his dad was alive or dead, and the notion of a young son who never had a dad, looking for his biological father, appealed to Hunter a great deal. – Doug Brinkley in Jann Wenner’s Gonzo.
There are a great many similarities between the two legendary outlaw writers. For a start, both approached writing with firm literary influences, yet managed to create entirely unique styles of their own, almost unrecognisable from those authors they first wished to emulate. Hunter typed out whole novels by Hemingway and Fitzgerald, and ended up tearing pages from his notebooks and submitting them as professional journalism to internationally renowned publications. Jack was driven by the desire to be a proper novelist with proper respect and to be the darling of the literary world, yet wrote the novel that sent millions on the road, inspired drink and drug culture for decades to come, and died with the respect only of those whose respect he didn’t want.
They both wrote wild tales of excess and burned out American Dreams, celebrating that which the establishment would condemn as the dark side of life, and not giving a fuck. Well, not quite. Hunter often said he felt forced to live up to the image of himself that he’d created in his books, which blended reality and fiction so chaotically that it’s hard to tell what happened and what didn’t. Nonetheless, most of his fans tended to be young and reckless and seeing nothing more in their idol than a crazed dope fiend. Jack, too, was plagued by the brutal life wrought by celebrity. He had written most of his novels by the time he had published On the Road, and simply sat and slipped slowly towards death as he tried drunkenly to cope with the torment of unwanted attention. His books were largely condemned by the critics until after his death from alcoholism at the age of forty-seven.
In style, we can see sharp differences between them. Jack was of the Beat philosophy that avoided political solutions, and instead focussed on carving out one’s own little space in the world. Consequently, Jack celebrated in grand romantic sentiment the things in life he thought were worth living for. Hunter, on the other hand, was an angry and energetic force of nature, who tried to fight anything he didn’t like. If he saw a system of power, he’d destroy it. His writing was characterised by vitriol, taking whatever it was that he loathed and saying everything he could think of to persuade the reader of his point of view. In the end, both writers embraced a spirit and a feeling and stated it better than any of their contemporaries, but lacked any hard truth or adherence to a traditional literary style.
Hunter thought of his Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas as essentially a road novel, comparing it to On the Road. He felt that his book was like Kerouac’s in politics: In the pessimistic certainty of the death of the American Dream. Both books has protagonists against the prevailing ideology of their times, immersed in destructive lifestyles and ruing an oppressive world.