Author: Hunter S Thompson
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Date of Publish: December 2000
Genre: Fiction/ Short Stories
No of Pages: 64
Hardback RRP: £15.00
Amazon Price: £10.20
***Who is Hunter Thompson***
Thompson was one of the controversial American greats who chose to write about subjects many avoided in a candid and honest manner which most shied away from in fear of offending. The difference between Thompson and other authors is that Thompson genuinely didn't care who he offended.
Thompson started writing for a number newspapers and magazines, later joining the ranks of Playboy and Rolling Stone. These commissions, particularly his work with Rolling Stone would go on to propel Thompson into the fully-fledged world of Gonzo Journalism of which he was the founder, creator and the ruling king. His first published book was an account taken from spending over a year with the Hell's Angels. This was of course only the first in a long line of books that would soon follow; each giving us a glimpse of who Thompson really was.
Hunter S Thompson died on February 20th 2005 from what was reportedly a self-inflicted gun shot wound. Some of the evidence surrounding his death is questionable and certainly many close to him at the time of his death, including his son have registered their concerns with the final verdict of suicide.
Thompson's indulgence in drugs of any kind and his keenness for the odd drink fuelled the stories he wrote. He freely admitted his habits and made no apologies for them but Thompson was about more than just about the drugs. Thompson did all the things we have been taught to know better than to do. He doesn't stop to think about consequences he just acts on instinct. Some may think this is irresponsible, and I am sure responsibility was never a major concern of his in the traditional sense of the word but that is what makes him such a magical figure. He died a selfish, arrogant, stubborn, cruel, passionate, determined, incredibly talented man
***History of Screwjack***
Thompson published and signed 326 copies of Screwjack containing three short stories in 1991. Of course, these instantly became collectors items and Thompson fans did not have a chance to read the much-anticipated book themselves. In 2000, the book was re-released.
***What is Screwjack about***
Screwjack and Other Stories is a compilation of four of Thompsons most bizarre short stories. It begins with Mesolito, which was previously seen in Songs of The Doomed. Mesolito is the ramblings of a man high as a kite on mescaline waiting for the trip to at first start, and then dissipate enough for him to function.
Death of a Poet is a surprising follow-up to Mesolito as Thompson recounts the tale of a visit to a friend at his trailer park home and the unexpected sequence of events that follow.
The final story Screwjack, written by Thompsons alter-ego Raoul Duke, tells of the seemingly innocent and innocuous relationship between cat and pet owner, however, anyone who knows Thompson knows not to be fooled.
***What I thought of it***
This book sets out to confuse, amuse and simultaneously repulse the reader.
Firstly, let me explain, I am very much a mother who likes my arts and crafts, bakes cookies and cannot wait to take my son to football practice and birthday parties. However, I wasnt always the poster girl for all things clean and holy. My opinion of Mesolito is coloured by this. It is not likely to be appreciated or enjoyed let alone understood by everyone.
Mesolito is by far the funniest pieces of writing I have read by Thompson. Practically speaking, it is the ramblings of a drugged out imbecile trying to do the impossible and straighten his head out while tripping out with a head full of pills and a belly full of beer. Thompson is instantly recognizable to anyone who has indulged and the genius of being able to put down on paper what most would be completely incapable of explaining while also making it laugh out loud funny is a true achievement.
Thompson paints himself as the most laughable bumbling fool, making the most mundane of activities into great quests he is determined to conquer. He is very aware of his own absurdity and invites the reader to ridicule his poor, ridiculous, child-like self as he tries desperately to train his mind to focus.
A very funny read and a fantastic introduction to Thompson.
*Death of a Poet*
For a brief period, I didnt realize the story had changed from Mesolito to Death of a poet, thinking it was merely another twisted chapter in his hazy trip. A pharmaceutically assisted Thompson visits a crazy old friend with a penchant for beating his equally crazy wife in a trailer park. He is met by his whacked out, paranoid friend who seems genuinely happy to see him. Throughout there brief conversation, his paranoia gets the better of him and eventually and abruptly finishes the story in the last way imaginable.
This story gave the reader a slap in the face and proved to be a quick comedown from the virtual drug-fuelled high we were previously enjoying with Thompson. It is a short story and by all literary standards, it doesnt really take the form it should. The middle of the story is cut short (although I suppose the story is the middle part of the book itself) without warning and the conclusion leaves the reader in shock and totally confused by what they have just witnessed.
It is a fascinating turn of events and in some ways a very stark but appropriate introduction to the third and most bizarre story, Screwjack.
At the beginning, Screwjack reads like a school writing assignment; like when your teacher asked you to write a descriptive essay on a bowl of fruit or something equally dull and lifeless. Thompson is describing his companion and pet, cat Screwjack as he strokes him, rubbing his belly affectionately. It is not long before his affection turns in a completely different and more sinister direction, which I guarantee, will have the reader turning away from the pages. There is little more I can tell you about this story except to admit, it will disgust and possibly outrage many people, unless you are able to decipher what Thompson was trying to create with the story.
If, you are able to see past the vulgarity of it and are able to look at from a purely literary point of view, his ability to set a scene, draw in the reader and paint the most elaborate of pictures is arguably undeniable.
When I finished this tiny book, it took me a while before I could actually talk about it. The cat literally had my tongue (any irony connecting this with the last story is purely coincidence)
For a relatively short book, with limited characters and even less plot line to grab you and take you so abruptly on a crazy emotional rollercoaster is pretty difficult to cope with. This turns into an ugly, vile and totally despicable tale and the reader is left to limp off pathetically to lick their wounds alone.
The vulgar aside, it is in my view a literary triumph a full 400 page novel jammed neatly into a compact 64 pages without losing any impact, in fact, quite the opposite. Its a bit like taking a multi-vitamin instead of a sitting down to a big meal, except you are left with so many questions buzzing in your head it is quite possible you wont sleep for a week.
It is tough to know if I should recommend this book. For the Thompson fan yes. For the holiday beach book reader no. For the adventurous and curious yes. For the cautious and nervous no. For the thick-skinned loud-mouth yes, for the politically correct and easily offended no.
I would love to see this book read by those not restricted to the circle of Thompson fans that currently exist. I would love for it to be appreciated and talked about by commuters on the train in the morning. The truth is however, this book is not for everyone or even for the majority. If you feel like a challenge, I urge you to pick up this extraordinary book, but whatever happens; do not blame me for the outcome.
This fabulous book collects three short stories in Thompson's unique gonzo style: a chronicle of his first experience with mescaline, the death of a friend, and a letter by the fictitious Raoul Duke.