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The Good Doctor and the Art of Gonzo Journalism

Through the writer’s steady stream of consciousness, Gonzo journalism incorporates the truth, the mood, the precise thoughts, feelings and emotions, mixed in with the usual standards of accuracy, and complete with a novelistic twist. Gonzo journalism is ingenious, descriptive and real, lacking a pretense of objectivity. Entertaining, compared the mundane, everyday, run-of-the-mill reportage.

“Objective journalism is one of the main reasons American politics has been allowed to be so corrupt for so long,” said Hunter S. Thompson, the pioneer of Gonzo journalism.

It is the arm of journalism referred to as a journalistic style of writing, usually in the first-person narrative, where the “creator” of the story is inherently intertwined within the story, (rather than being the “standard” passive observer).

The term “gonzo” was first used by Boston Globe reporter Bill Cardoso, who proclaimed, “That is pure gonzo!” after reading Hunter S. Thompson’s notorious article, “The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved,” which first appeared in 1970, in Scanlon’s Monthly magazine. Unbeknownst at the time, this article marked the first appearance of Gonzo journalism, the style that Thompson came to epitomize and popularize.

According to Cardoso, “gonzo” is South Boston Irish slang for describing the last man standing at the end of an all-night drinking marathon.

Deep-rooted in the heart of the true meaning of Gonzo journalism is the concept that journalism can be more truthful and real without strict adherence of traditional rules of factual reportage. The reporter and the quest for information are the integral elements in the art of Gonzo journalism. Gonzo journalism is considered to be an extension of New Journalism, which was pioneered by Tom Wolfe, Terry Southern and Lester Bangs, among others. Both of these methods are genuine “telling it like it is” journalistic styles. New Journalism blurred the distinction between journalism and creative writing. Gonzo journalism offers an invigorating, fresh, and interesting approach to journalism. The writer becomes the story.

Feb. 20, 2006, marked the one-year anniversary of the untimely death of Hunter S. Thompson, The godfather of Gonzo journalism. A true genius living a crazy life in a crazy world. On this date, we commemorated an amazing man. His passing signified the death of a dream, of a style, of a world and a life that so many treasured and believed in.

Hunter S. Thompson, notably referred to as “The Good Doctor” by many, was an icon. A remarkable and revered figure in the diverse world of literature, and in the “real world” in general. He was a counterculture figure of rare longevity. An immortal. He never wavered, he never sacrificed his own sense of right and wrong, his own sense of judgment, or his own style, for anyone or anything. When I think of Thompson, I envision a tall, thin, chiseled, and determined man, with crooked sunglasses and a green Vegas sun visor, cigarette in holder, holder hanging out of mouth, bumbling around with his raging imagination, incessantly overactive and paranoid mind, with his typewriter in tow, set out on a limitless adventure . . . on the path of the unknown . . . on the path of truth and righteousness?on the path of fear and loathing. One of his favorite slogans quickly comes to mind: “Too weird to live, too rare to die.”

Thompson was known for his unsurpassable and extravagant style, his renegade and instigative approach, and his humorously outrageous demeanor. His stories, stimulating and bizarre, were often perceived as fiction, although his unique perspective befittingly described the impending underlying reality.

Thompson’s writing style has been greatly imitated; and his influence on writers, readers, dreamers, and people of all ages, is undeniable. To quote another one of his most recognized sayings, “Buy the ticket, take the ride.”

I cherished every word I ever read, and every word he ever said. Reading his work is like reading words from a god. Hunter S. Thompson is a god. I will always honor the brilliant and amazing person who touched more lives than he ever could have began to imagine. He lived a hundred different lifetimes in his own 67 years. The Good Doctor will live on in our hearts and minds forever.

“The Edge . . . there is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over,”

? Hunter S. Thompson.

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About the Author

The Murfreesboro Pulse, Middle Tennessee's Source for Art, Entertainment and Culture News. murfreesboropulse@yahoo.com

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