Hunter S. Thompson, "smart hillbilly"; boy of the South; born and bred in Louisville, Kentucky; son of an insurance salesman and a stay-at-home mom; public school-educated; jailed at 17 on a bogus petty robbery charge; member of the US Air Force (airman second class); copy boy for Time; writer for The National Observer; et cetera.
From the outset, he was the wild man of American journalism, with a journalistic appetite that touched on subjects that drove his sense of justice and intrigue, from biker gangs and 1960s counterculture to presidential campaigns and psychedelic drugs. He lived larger than life and pulled it up around him in a mad effort to make it as electric, anger-ridden, and drug-fueled as possible.
Now Juan Thompson tells the story of his father and of their getting to know each other during their 41 fraught years together. He writes of the many dark times, of how far they ricocheted away from each other, and of how they found their way back before it was too late. He writes of growing up in an old farmhouse in a narrow mountain valley outside of Aspen (Woody Creek, Colorado, a ranching community with Hereford cattle and clover fields)...of the presence of guns in the house, the boxes of ammo on the kitchen shelves behind the glass doors of the country cabinets, where others might have placed china and knickknacks...of climbing on the back of Hunter's Bultaco Matador trail motorcycle as a young boy, and father and son roaring up the dirt road, trailing a cloud of dust...of being taken to bars in town as a small boy, Hunter holding court while Juan crawled around under the barstools, picking up change and taking his found loot to Carl's Pharmacy to buy Archie comic books...of going with his parents as a baby to a Ken Kesey/Hells Angels party with dozens of people wandering around the forest in various stages of undress, stoned on pot, tripping on LSD....
He writes of his growing fear of his father; of the arguments between his parents reaching frightening levels; and of his finally fighting back, trying to protect his mother as the state troopers are called in to separate father and son. And of the inevitable - of mother and son driving west in their Datsun to make a new home, a new life, away from Hunter; of Juan's first taste of what "normal" could feel like....
We see Juan going to Concord Academy, a stranger in a strange land, coming from a school that was a log cabin in the middle of hay fields, Juan without manners or socialization.... Going on to college at Tufts; spending a crucial week with his father; Hunter asking for Juan's opinion of his writing. And he writes of their dirt biking on a hilltop overlooking Woody Creek Valley, acting as if all the horrible things that had happened between them had never taken place, and of being there, together, side by side.... And, finally, movingly, he writes of their long, slow pull toward reconciliation....
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- Karen Loucks Rinedollar
Liked the author, disliked his father.
So-so on this being time well spent. Like The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, this is an autobiographical tale of a child being raised by dysfunctional, abusive, neglectful, addicted parents, and that child's recovery from and eventual understanding of the experience. In this case, the author, Juan, grew up in the shadow of an illustrious, charismatic but unstable and often verbally cruel father. Juan's writing is excellent, as is his narration. However, just a few chapters into his book, I found Juan's famous father to be a horrific person. His literary accomplishments do not excuse the man in any way. Not that Hunter S. Thompson required anyone's approval, though he certainly demanded attention. I couldn't give this book more than three stars, as my dislike of Hunter S. Thompson was quite intense after I finished the book.
I think Juan overly lionized his father after his death. Some degree of co-dependency going on, or wishful thinking, perhaps.
I am not aware of any other works Juan Thompson may have narrated. He did a great job with this autobiographical work.
Just a plea to parents to be kind, attentive and reliable with their children. I'd love it if books such as this--another story of severe dysfunctionality--became a rarity.
- Gotta Tellya