Kirk A.C. Marshall

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Mistah Duke, He Dead

*An Obituary for Hunter S. Thompson [as written originally, without being re-contextualised into column form]*
 
Published: 21 / 02/ 05 (c)

DATE: February 21, 2005

TO: Whom It May Concern

FROM: Kirk Marshall

SUBJECT: MISTAH DUKE, HE DEAD

 

I will miss Hunter S. Thompson. Obviously, I didn’t know him personally. I wasn’t there when he ingenuously attempted manslaughter upon Jack Nicholson with illegal fireworks. I wasn’t there in New York celebrating his sixty-sixth birthday with The Strokes and a highly-lucid, alcohol-fuelled game of bowling. I’ve never been to Woody Creak Tavern, Aspen, Colorado, the late great man’s fringe-dwelling haunt where he could be found orating acerbic politics, hurling chairs across the room, and imbibing well-aged smoky bourbon to the soundtrack of furious excess and expletive-strung philosophising. I never got to shake his hand, something that he doubtlessly would have found no enduring significance in, but nevertheless an act that (perhaps akin to sharing sake with John Lennon), would reside within me to my own passing. That shall be the most saddening thing stigmatising his passing for me. I’ll never get to meet that man.

 

I first read Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas in 2002. I was then asked, with affected dubiety by a brilliantly narrow-minded Catholic year 12 English teacher, to select a work of twentieth century contemporary literature thus far unread; to compose a persuasive critical analysis of justification for why it warranted inclusion into the twenty-first century’s organic literary canon. I said, hot damn. I said I wanted to read a journalistic novel about unencumbered, raging, drugs-addicted bohemian anti-heroes eking a debauched, netherworld (and etherworld) week of decadence in Vegas. I said I wanted to read a satire from the perspective of a crippled and paranoiac man’s vaporous, mescaline-fug eyes. I said I wanted to read a pugilistic, poetical, satirical allegory to modern man’s disintegration of soul. I said, I want to read a book about two guys ripped on a veritable arsenal of dangerous, mind-compressing hallucinogens, a threnody to the world of craziness where the heroic moment is a psychopath shooting at desert-dwelling iguanas from within his cherry-apple Great Red Shark convertible. I suckered my teacher in, and I don’t doubt a random atom of Hunter’s glorying essence is somewhere passing through the air, jubilating over it. I got an A+.

 

He was a great man. And like all great men, Hunter S. Thompson bore the curse of genius. Even though I was singularly and selectively privy to his words, countless and thorny as battlefields of roses, sometimes I didn’t understand him. His dense, rewarding gonzo memoir papers Kingdom of Fear proved an interminable source of Hunter the Poet Made Deified, and occasionally Hunter the Meandering Lunatic. His bones bore the weight of legacy and his bloodstream the clog of a billion coruscating witticisms. Sometimes he wrote with his pen. Sometimes, like today, this day, he wrote with his own shotgun. Hunter S. Thompson committed suicide, murdered himself, by shooting his own bullet into his own brain. It’s not a particularly sentimentalist end. In fact, it’s soul-sundering and depressing. But just because I might not comprehend the way in which he elected to go does not, to any degree, negate the way in which I feel for this embodied moment in history. For me, at least, it’ll be encased in the embryo of my heart forever, in much the same way people have sung the loss of J.F.K. or Princess Di or Kurt Cobain or Jeff Buckley. I was young and impressionable, searching for a wilding mantra to go by living, and Hunter. Well. He showed me the bats.

 

I’m sure I’ll write a book from this. It may be fiction, it may be fact, it may be gonzo, but it will be tribute.

 

Hunter wrote of Tim Leary, in a personalised obituary published June 9, 1996: “He is forgotten but not gone. We will see him soon enough. Our tribe is now smaller by one. Our circle is one link shorter. And there is one more name on the honour roll of pure warriors who saw the great light and leapt for it.” It’s an irony, then, that his very own words are the best ones to serenade his passing. He not only leapt for that great light, but stoked its flame. Cool guy.