Marty Beckerman. Author of Dumbocracy: Adventures with the Loony Left, the Rabid Right, and Other AmericanIdiots. Generation S.L.U.T. (sexually liberated urban teens): A Brutal Feel-up Session with Today’s Sex-Crazed Adolescent Populace, and Death to All Cheerleaders: One Adolescent Journalist’s Cheerful Diatribe Against Teenage Plasticity. HST called him “a morbid little bastard.” He has written for Playboy, Discover, Reason, and many more. Click on his name above and get the full whack. You can see my review of his book Dumbocracy here. And buy it here.
Marty Beckerman on Gonzo Journalism: Should it be emulated?
HST is one of those authors—like Bret Easton Ellis, Stephen King, Dave Barry and Charles Bukowski—whom amateurs cannot resist emulating. (I know because I have emulated all of them.) Fittingly enough Thompson owed much to Hemingway early in his career, a natural part of the process, but nobody loves Thompson’s writing because “it’s just like Hemingway!” With the Kentucky Derby article and especially Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Thompson stopped aspiring to the title of The Next _____ _______ (Faulkner/Fitzgerald/etc.) and instantaneously evolved into The First Hunter Thompson.
People who dream of glory as The Next Hunter Thompson are missing the point, kind of like how right-wingers impose fascism to defend freedom, or how teenage nonconformists all dress exactly the same and slash their wrists with the exact same corporation-manufactured razorblades while listening to the exact same moody songs, those whiny f*****g pussies.
All writers have influences, and you can learn a lot from your heroes. (Thompson evoked Hemingway, Hemingway evoked Twain, Twain evoked Shakespeare, Shakespeare evoked Homer, Homer evoked Ray Charles, etc.) The problem is that readers can tell when you imitate another writer’s voice, even if they have never read the original. They might not know enough to say “this sounds like _____ ______ ,” but they inherently know “this does not sound like you.” When you put 100% of yourself into your work—which requires unique life experiences, most likely unpleasant ones—the readership automatically recognizes the birth of an original voice, and that is why people will love you, not because you copied (excuse me, “gave tribute to”) another guy’s mannerisms and catchphrases and techniques and opinions.
If you covet the crown to the gonzo kingdom, your writing will suffer from an inherent and malignant dishonesty. If you really want to emulate the great writers, then deliver the truth in your own way. The footsteps of giants can lead us to the mountain, but we must reach the pinnacle ourselves. Mahalo.