I tend sometimes to be numb to externalities. I've got my own problems. I can get incredibly worked up about abstract things like American politics; but I can also hear about tragic events in the news and just shrug my shoulders. I don't know how abnormal that makes me. Anyway, this is an event that registers for me, even if I haven't shed any tears or broken furniture. One of the great voices in the history of American culture has passed on, a voice of madness and truth, the likes of which will not be seen again.
My initial thought yesterday was that Thompson, at 67 and with a recent run of medical misfortune, realized that age was finally catching up to him, that at last the time had come when he'd have to change his habits completely in order to stave off his body's betrayal of him. So he decided to emulate Hemingway. We'll find out more about this in coming days and weeks from people close to him, but that's my first reaction.
Without a doubt, Thompson is one of my favorite writers and greatest inspirations. Though "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" is amazing, I think I actually prefer "Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72." His grasp of politics, its underbelly and its inner workings, goes far beyond that of anyone else I've read. You could watch CNN from now until October without learning as much -- well in fact you'd wind up dumber -- as you would in reading the first 100 pages of that book.
While it would have been nice to have Thompson around for the next 13 years or so to hear his thoughts on American politics and culture, anyone who's really studied him him will be able without too much trouble to divine what Thompson would have thought about what is still to come in this almost-doomed country of ours. What we need is people who will act upon that inspiration.