Good luck finding any photographs of Hunter S. Thompson without a cigarette or a drink. Thompson, a visionary and leader in snark whose commentary was often laced with excessive drug use, reinvented journalism 40 years ago and managed to stay relevant until the day he put a bullet in his head in 2005. The drug use was fuel for a highly-specific voice that can often be recognized in a single sentence—his entire Richard M. Nixon obit can be found here, which you’ll find featured in No. 15 below.
These quotes cover everything from politics to ether, and, to an extent, show us how the great Gonzo viewed the world. The beauty of it all, though, is that we’ll never really understand how he viewed the world. Probably how he preferred it.
3. “Let us toast to animal pleasures, to escapism, to rain on the roof and instant coffee, to unemployment insurance and library cards, to absinthe and good-hearted landlords, to music and warm bodies and contraceptives… and to the ‘good life’, whatever it is and wherever it happens to be.”
11. “With the possible exception of things like box scores, race results, and stock market tabulations, there is no such thing as Objective Journalism. The phrase itself is a pompous contradiction in terms.”
15. “If the right people had been in charge of Nixon’s funeral, his casket would have been launched into one of those open-sewage canals that empty into the ocean just south of Los Angeles. He was a swine of a man and a jabbering dupe of a president. Nixon was so crooked that he needed servants to help him screw his pants on every morning. Even his funeral was illegal. He was queer in the deepest way. His body should have been burned in a trash bin.”
“It’s an honor to have this great American Playwright in my archives. This interview came to be because Tennessee’s agent was a friend of mine and he actually offered to have his client do the program. It was a big day at the station, and after the interview we all went out to lunch together. An odd footnote is that three days after doing this interview I ran into Tennessee at a party in New York and he did not remember me. That aside, in this interview Tennessee reads one of his favorite poets, Hart Crane. This is a memorable literary moment.”—Bill Boggs
Tennessee Williams was a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright whose works include, A Streetcar Named Desire and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
Playwright Tennessee Williams was born on March 26, 1911, in Columbus, Mississippi. After college, he moved to New Orleans, a city that would inspire much of his writing. On March 31, 1945, his play, The Glass Menagerie, opened on Broadway and two years later A Streetcar Named Desire earned Williams his first Pulitzer Prize. Many of Williams’ plays have been adapted to film starring screen greats like Marlon Brando and Elizabeth Taylor. Williams died in 1983.
Playwright Tennessee Williams was born Thomas Lanier Williams on March 26, 1911, in Columbus, Mississippi, the second of Cornelius and Edwina Williams’ three children. Raised predominantly by his mother, Williams had a complicated relationship with his father, a demanding salesman who preferred work instead of parenting.
Williams described his childhood in Mississippi as pleasant and happy. But life changed for him when his family moved to St. Louis, Missouri. The carefree nature of his boyhood was stripped in his new urban home, and as a result Williams turned inward and started to write.
His parent’s marriage certainly didn’t help. Often strained, the Williams home could be a tense place to live. “It was just a wrong marriage,” Williams later wrote. The family situation, however, did offer fuel for the playwright’s art. His mother became the model for the foolish but strong Amanda Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie, while his father represented the aggressive, driving Big Daddy in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.
In 1929, Williams enrolled at the University of Missouri to study journalism. But he was soon withdrawn from the school by his father, who became incensed when he learned that his son’s girlfriend was also attending the university.
Deeply despondent, Williams retreated home, and at his father’s urging took a job as a sales clerk with a shoe company. The future playwright hated the position, and again he turned to his writing, crafting poems and stories after work. Eventually, however, the depression took its toll and Williams suffered a nervous breakdown.
After recuperating in Memphis, Williams returned to St. Louis and where he connected with several poets studying at Washington University. In 1937 returned to college, enrolling at the University of Iowa. He graduated the following year.
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When he was 28, Williams moved to New Orleans, where he changed his name (he landed on Tennessee because his father hailed from there) and revamped his lifestyle, soaking up the city life that would inspire his work, most notably the later play, A Streetcar Named Desire.
He proved to be a prolific writer and one of his plays, earned him $100 from the Group Theater writing contest. More importantly, it landed him an agent, Audrey Wood, who would become his friend and adviser.
In 1940 Williams’ play, Battle of Angels, debuted in Boston. It quickly flopped, but the hardworking Williams revised it and brought it back as Orpheus Descending, which later was made into the movie, The Fugitive Kind, starring Marlon Brando and Anna Magnani.
Other work followed, including a gig writing scripts for MGM. But Williams’ mind was never far from the stage. On March 31, 1945, a play he’d been working for some years, The Glass Menagerie, opened on Broadway.
Critics and audiences alike lauded the play, about a declassed Southern family living in a tenement, forever changing Williams’ life and fortunes. Two years later, A Streetcar Named Desire, opened, surpassing his previous success and cementing his status as one of the country’s best playwrights. The play also earned Williams a Drama Critics’ Award and his first Pulitzer Prize.
His subsequent work brought more praise. The hits from this period includedCamino Real, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Sweet Bird of Youth.
The 1960s were a difficult time for Williams. His work received poor reviews and increasingly the playwright turned to alcohol and drugs as coping mechanisms. In 1969 his brother hospitalized him.
Upon his release, Williams got right back to work. He churned out several new plays as well as Memoirs in 1975, which told the story of his life and his afflictions.
But he never fully escaped his demons. Surrounded by bottles of wine and pills, Williams died in a New York City hotel room on February 25, 1983.
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don’t worry, nobody has the
beautiful lady, not really, and
nobody has the strange and
hidden power, nobody is
exceptional or wonderful or
magic, they only seem to be
it’s all a trick, an in, a con,
don’t buy it, don’t believe it.
the world is packed with
billions of people whose lives
and deaths are useless and
when one of these jumps up
and the light of history shines
upon them, forget it, it’s not
what it seems, it’s just
another act to fool the fools
there are no strong men, there
are no beautiful women.
at least, you can die knowing
and you will have
the only possible
#Samuel Langhorne Clemens, better known by his pen name Mark Twain, was an American author and humorist. He wrote The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and its sequel, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the latter often called “the Great American Novel.” Wikipedia
#Mark Twain’s Hartford
Hartford was in its glory during what Mark Twain facetiously termed The Gilded Age, and the story still lives here and there in Connecticut’s capital city. Begin your tour in the “home” of Huckleberry Finn and then continue the journey through the second half of the 19th century (with a break for lunch, of course).
“A Home – & The Word Never Had So Much Meaning Before”
Samuel and Olivia “Livy” Clemens were married in 1870 and moved to Hartford in 1871. The family first rented a house on Forest Street‚ in the Nook Farm neighborhood‚ from Livy’s friends‚ John and Isabella Beecher Hooker‚ and later purchased land on Farmington Avenue. In 1873‚ they engaged New York architect Edward Tuckerman Potter to design their house.
Livy had strong opinions about the design of her home; she drew sketches and sought the counsel of trusted friends on her ideas. Construction began in August 1873‚ while Sam and Livy were abroad. Although there was still much finish work to be completed‚ the family moved into their house on September 19‚ 1874. Construction delays and the ever-increasing costs of building their dream home frustrated Sam. In spite of this‚ he was enamored with the finished product‚ saying‚ “It is a home – & the word never had so much meaning before.”
Mark Twain and his family enjoyed what the author would later call the happiest and most productive years of his life in their Hartford home. He wrote:
Financial problems forced Sam and Livy to move the family to Europe in 1891. Though he would complain about other places the family lived compared to the Hartford house (”How ugly‚ tasteless‚ repulsive are all the domestic interiors I have ever seen in Europe compared with the perfect taste of this ground floor”)‚ the family would never live in Hartford again. Susy’s death in 1896 made it too hard for Livy to return to their Hartford home‚ and the Clemenses sold the property in 1903.
Experiences Types: History
Driving Tip: Approximately 19 miles
MARK TWAIN HOUSE & MUSEUM
Begin in The Mark Twain House & Museum, the magnificent Victorian Gothic mansion where Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain, lived with his family from 1874 to 1891 as he wrote Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Life on the Mississippi and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, among other works. Clemens spent his happiest days in the 19-room house, and some of his saddest as well. Tours are available throughout the day. The handsome Museum next door is devoted to Twain’s legacy.
HARRIET BEECHER STOWE CENTER
Clemens lived in a cluster of properties called #Nook Farm, where other writers, editors and local luminaries also settled. One neighbor was Harriet Beecher Stowe, whose historic house remains open to the public as the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center. The author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin spent her last 23 years in Hartford, and many of her belongings are on display. Afterward, head up Farmington Avenue for lunch. Possibilities include and Asian touch at Tisane Tea & Coffee Bar, Irish pub food at Half Door and vegan fare at Fire & Spice.
ASYLUM HILL CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH
Reverend Joseph Hopkins Twitchell, pastor of Asylum Hill Congregational Church for nearly 50 years was said to be Mark Twain’s closest friend. Twitchell officiated at Twain’s wedding in 1870 and christened his children, two of them at this church. Twain and his family often attended Sunday services here.
SOLDIERS AND SAILORS MEMORIAL ARCH
The conception, fundraising and completion of Hartford’s Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch almost exactly coincides with Twain’s time in the city. Made of brownstone from quarries in nearby Portland, the Gothic-style arch is a memorial to the Civil War dead and those who served – and it is the first permanent triumphal arch to be erected in America.
CEDAR HILL CEMETERY
Twain is not buried in Hartford’s #Cedar Hill Cemetery, but many of his contemporaries are, including writer and editor Charles Dudley Warner, financier John Pierpont Morgan, businessman Gilbert F. Heublein and many others. The cemetery’s 270 acres are beautifully landscaped and many of the monuments are works of art. Others interred here include actress Katharine Hepburn, Samuel Colt and poet Wallace Stevens.
If you have time, get out to #Talcott Mountain State Park in Simsbury, where #Twain used to hike with friends for the view from what is now known at Heublein Tower. Over the years, five towers have stood on this prominent perch; in Twain’s day it was known as Barlett’s Tower and it was a very popular local destination before burning down in 1936. You can get the same view Twain and his friends got by climbing to the top of Heublein Tower.
Born in Louisville, Kentucky, Hunter S. Thompson is considered the father of “Gonzo journalism”, a style of reporting conveyed via a first-person narrative characterized by its lack of neutrality, often due to the reporter’s first-hand involvement in the topic being covered to such a degree that the reporter becomes a newsworthy part of the story. Thompson became famous for this irreverent “literary” approach toward journalism, blending fact, fiction, and subjective accounts in an attempt–he claimed–to uncover and illuminate deeper truths that couldn’t be reached through a neutral, objective viewpoint. Within his writing, Thompson could often be found strongly expressing his political and social criticisms, as well as describing his unabashed, liberal consumption of recreational drugs.A troubled youth, following an arrest for robbery in 1956, Thompson enlisted in the Air Force to fulfill part of his sentencing agreement. While at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, he kicked off his profession as a writer by working as a sports reporter. Thompson’s writing began to gain attention after he was hired to produce a magazine article based on his experience of having spent a year with the Hells Angels. “The Motorcycle Gang” appeared on May 17, 1956 in The Nation, and a more subjective treatment of the same topic followed in 1967, when Random House published his book, Hells Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs.
Thompson is most well-known for his 1971 book, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream, which has appeared in at least 40 editions and 16 different languages. Over the course of his career, Thompson wrote over a dozen other books and contributed articles to numerous periodicals, including Esquire, The National Observer, Playboy, Rolling Stone, The San Francisco Examiner, and Time Magazine, as well as penning the “Hey Rube” web column for ESPN.
Along with being an avid gun enthusiast, Thompson also had a great love of photography. A posthumous oral history produced in honor of Thompson, featuring many of his photographs, as well as portraits of him taken by others, along with an introduction by his friend Johnny Depp, was published in 2007. Depp played the lead role of Raoul Duke (a character based on Thompson) in director Terry Gilliam’s 1998 film version of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
At the age of 67–likely in response to his unhappiness about aging, along with chronic pain from a broken leg and hip replacement–Thompson committed suicide with a gun shot to the head in his Colorado home.
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PORT TOWNSEND, Wash. — A wooden fishing boat that John Steinbeck chartered in 1940 with a biologist friend, then wrote about in a story of their journey through the Sea of Cortez in Mexico, sits in sad, decaying splendor in a boatyard here, two hours northwest of Seattle.
People have come from as far away as Liverpool, England, to see the vessel, named the Western Flyer, in the eight months since it arrived. There is no exhibit, no effort to market the ship as an attraction, or even point the way so people can easily find it, blocked and braced out of the water at the back of the yard. Mud covers the portholes from its two sinkings and resurrections. The brass doorknobs are corroded to green, and the upper rail buckles inward with rot and age.
“We get a couple of people a week, and we give them directions — it’s pretty low key,” said Anna Quinn, an owner of Imprint Bookstore, a downtown shop that sells a few copies a week of the book that resulted from Steinbeck’s trip, “The Log From the Sea of Cortez.”
“They just want to see and touch it and be in the literary aura,” Ms. Quinn said.
A final chapter for the Western Flyer may be about to unfold. And there are fierce disagreements about how — and where — its tale of fleeting celebrity and ignominious decay should end.
The boat’s owner, Gerry Kehoe, a California businessman, said he planned to collect his property within the next couple of months. The 76-foot-long vessel, he said, will be cut into two or three pieces and trucked to Salinas, Calif., where Steinbeck was born, then reassembled and installed as the centerpiece — with real water and a dock — in the lobby of a boutique hotel Mr. Kehoe is developing.
The hotel, with two restaurants surrounding the boat and glass panels telling the story of the voyage, will open in the summer of 2015 with Western Flyer in the name, he said in a telephone interview.
The nephew of the Western Flyer’s skipper in 1940 has been ferociously critical of Mr. Kehoe’s plan. He says the boat belongs in Monterey, where it worked in Steinbeck’s day as a sardine fisher, and deserves better in retirement.
“He talks a good game, but he really doesn’t know what he’s doing — he doesn’t have a clue,” said Robert Enea, whose uncle, Tony Berry, piloted the voyage by Steinbeck and the biologist, E. F. Ricketts.
Mr. Enea, a retired physical education teacher, led a nonprofit group called the Western Flyer Project that he said had raised $10,000 and was trying to buy the boat in 2010 for $45,000 when Mr. Kehoe got it instead. The group, Mr. Enea said, envisioned a mission of environmental education in Monterey Bay, echoing and honoring the Cortez trip.
Mr. Kehoe said the Flyer Project lacked resources to save or restore anything — not least a boat built in 1937 that would take “well into the seven figures” to be made seaworthy. And, he added, striking a note that Steinbeck himself might have savored as a champion of the underdog, the economically struggling town Salinas simply deserves the Western Flyer more than wealthy, flourishing Monterey.
“Does everybody want the rich to be richer?” Mr. Kehoe said, adding that access to the boat will be free. Salinas, he said, “doesn’t have a lot going for it, to be honest with you, but it is the birthplace of the great man.”
Literary tourism is a big business, in the bits of a writer’s life that get left around in the messy business of living, or the characters that came to life on the page. From Key West, Fla.,visitors can swill rum in honor of Hemingway, to Dickens World, a theme park in England that offers a re-creation of bleak and stinky Victorian London, writers are still earning their keep.
Here on Washington’s rainy Olympic Peninsula, setting of the hugely successful teen-vampire-romance “Twilight” novels by Stephenie Meyer, Steinbeck is small potatoes anyway. In Forks, which the heroine, Bella Swan, called home and is two hours west of Port Townsend, visitors can stay in one of the Twilight Rooms at the Pacific Inn Motel, or eat a Bella’s Barbecue Burger Dip at the Forks Coffee Shop.
Some who have come to see the Western Flyer pay homage to science. The six-week, 4,000-mile research trip in 1940 to study plants and animals formed a template for thinking and writing about ecology decades before the modern environmental movement, said Ian Hinkle, a Canadian filmmaker who came to shoot in January for a documentary on the Salish Sea called “Reaching Blue.”
“That boat was the inspiration for many ocean researchers and ecologists today,” he said. “Now it’s sitting in a boatyard, just sitting there, one more big old rotting piece of broken dreams.”
But perhaps for at least part of the summer tourism season in Port Townsend that began this weekend, the Western Flyer is going nowhere. Ms. Quinn, who owns Imprint Books with her husband, Peter, said they were hoping to do some Steinbeck readings this summer, with people gathering at the boatyard.
Steinbeck himself, in “The Log From the Sea of Cortez,” said he believed the bond of boats and people ran too deep to sever. “It is very easy to see why the Viking wished his body to sail away in an unmanned ship, for neither could exist without the other,” he wrote.
From left, Hal Chase, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs in Manhattan, c1944-45
The Haunted Life: The Lost Novella, by Jack Kerouac, Penguin Classics, RRP£20, 208 pages
Jack Kerouac, an author who was barely patient enough to punctuate his sentences, never mind sit still in one place, always claimed that he had lost the manuscript to his early novella The Haunted Life in the back seat of a yellow taxi cab. The truth is less dramatic: he probably forgot it in the closet of a Columbia University dorm room that had belonged to his fellow Beat writer Allen Ginsberg.
It resurfaced in a Sotheby’s auction 12 years ago, selling to an unnamed bidder for $95,600. The previous year, Kerouac’s most renowned manuscript, the famous On The Road scroll, had also sold at auction for a whopping $2.4m, which explains the sudden appearance of the earlier work.
Those relative values strike me as well-judged. The Haunted Life, now published for the first time and generously annotated and edited by Kerouac scholar Todd Tietchen, is a minor addition to the author’s corpus but not without interest. Kerouac wrote it at the age of 22, in the turbulent year of 1944, during which he was jailed as an accessory to murder, married his first wife Edie Parker to secure bail, and was then released.
“I should now have material for a fine book . . . love, murder, diabolical conversations, all,” he wrote mischievously, but none of these promising themes finds its way into A Haunted Life. Instead we get a rehearsal for the semi-autobiographical exploration that would form the basis of Kerouac’s first major published work, The Town and the City.
Tietchen, in his introduction to the novella, believes that this early and methodical exposition of the author’s literary intentions is a significant rebuttal of the “public perception of Kerouac as a spontaneous word-slinger whose authorial approach merely complemented his Dionysian approach to life”. He casts the hedonistic writer as an improbable respecter of process, honing his ideas in this brisk workout.
In A Haunted Life, Kerouac’s concerns are refracted through Peter Martin, heading into his sophomore year at Boston College along with his friends Garabed Tourian and Dick Sheffield, based on the author’s real-life buddies Sebastian Sampas and Billy Chandler, both of whom had died in the war by the time Kerouac wrote the novella.
The three young men’s conversations skirt around some of the issues that preoccupied American intellectual life in the 1930s and 1940s: the end of the Great Depression, the US’s entry into the war, the exploitation of the working classes, and the possibility of romantic escape from all of those needling dilemmas.
Garabed and Dick respectively represent the leftist and liberationist ideals that animated those debates. In contrast, Peter’s frosty exchanges with his father Joe – clearly based on Kerouac’s own father Leo – see the young man wrestling with the bigotry of the preceding generation. In the novella’s very first pages, Peter drowns out the beginnings of one of his father’s rants by turning up Benny Goodman on the record player, an early reflection of Kerouac’s belief that jazz music’s freedom of form was the nemesis of sclerotic social views.
This opening feels stagey, as do the opening remarks between Peter and Garabed, clunky in their philosophical intent: “Poor Garabed,” says Peter. “Dostoevsky terrifies you with his Slavic portraits that remind you too much of yourself. You fear ugliness, you chase beauty and embrace it.”
As we focus on Peter’s interior life, touches of the freewheeling Kerouac begin to emerge in passages of existential celebration: “The morning sun, the swift clean smell in the air had called him back to life, called him back for more of the same – which at times held so much wonder that Peter deplored his physical limits. On a morning like this! – to be everywhere, be everyone at the same time, doing everything!”
Kerouac always intended The Haunted Life to become a multi-volume saga on the war, told through the story of the Martin family. “[It] will be a very sad book,” he explains in a note included here. “It can’t be otherwise: youth is shocked by maturity, but war adds to this shock enough to kill youth forever.”
But it is not for this melancholy tone that Kerouac would become best known, and it is clear from his musings that he was already looking ahead at a new America. In an outline for The Town and the City, he emphasises that the book’s ending will treat its characters well. “I write with gravity and gleefulness because I do not feel sceptical and clever about these things, and I believe that this is an American feeling. (No Joyce, no Auden, no Kafka has anything to say to a true American.)”
With that slap at the Old World, Kerouac launched himself to become one of the most exuberant adventurers of a new cultural landscape, whose heroes would include James Dean, Marlon Brando, Elvis Presley, characters who were infused with a sense of the limitless. Here, in this small book, are the tentative beginnings of a journey that was always going to lead to the open road.
NEW YORK (The Borowitz Report)—The novelist Philip Roth announced today that a sandwich he ate last week, a turkey one with lettuce and tomato on wheat, would be his last.
Roth’s retirement from sandwich eating, announced in an interview with a Dutch literary magazine, came as a surprise to the worlds of publishing and sandwiches.
In the interview, Roth attempted to soft-pedal the reasons behind his startling decision, saying only, “I had my first sandwich when I was three or four. That’s almost eighty years ago. That’s a lot of sandwiches.”
The response to Mr. Roth’s renunciation of sandwiches was skeptical, with some readers of the interview questioning whether the acclaimed novelist had not left the door open a crack to sandwiches in his future.
When asked by his Dutch interviewer if he had sworn off deli meats, Roth said, “I could see a situation at a buffet where they’d have those mini slices of rye bread, and I’d make an open-faced thingy with roast beef and maybe a pickle or whatnot. But that’s not the same thing as a sandwich.”
As if to quell any misunderstanding, on Tuesday afternoon Roth issued the following statement through his publisher: “Not only have I had my last sandwich, I have made my final public statement about sandwiches.”