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Gonzo Text

Disentangling Meaning in Hunter S. Thompson’s Journalism

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Matthew Winston

Hunter Thompson’s writing is widely read and studied, yet as a methodology and body of work his Gonzo journalism has not been the subject of much critical or theoretical examination. This book fills the gap by constructing a coherent theoretical framework around Gonzo journalism.
Drawing on theories of subjectivity and authorship from Derrida, Foucault and Barthes, key themes of Gonzo journalism are considered, including edgework, representations of drug use, ideas of professional objectivity in political journalism, sports in American culture and ‘the death of the American Dream’. It is considered in wider social, political and historical contexts and in terms of boundaries of reportable experience and of objectivity and/or journalism.
Matthew Winston’s study provides a critical commentary and a theoretical exploration of how Gonzo can be read as destabilising conventional ideas of journalism itself, in its peculiarly unclassifiable nature.
This book is designed to be read by postgraduates and scholars in journalism, cultural studies and media and communication. It is also suitable as an undergraduate text dealing with journalism theory, literary journalism, sports journalism, the New Journalism and the wider historical contexts of American journalism.
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Introduction: Disentangling Gonzo

← viii | 1 →• Introduction •

Extract

What were we doing out here? What was the meaning of this trip? Did I actually have a big red convertible out there on the street? Was I just roaming around these Mint Hotel escalators in a drug frenzy of some kind, or had I really come out here to Las Vegas to work on a story?

—Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, 2005, p. 56

Alot has been written about Hunter S. Thompson. As a journalist, he rose to national prominence with his exposé of the Hell’s Angels motorcycle gang (Thompson, 1967) and cemented his reputation with the pioneering of ‘Gonzo’ journalism, his own exuberantly drug-addled, subversive, subjective method of writing the story—whether running wild in Las Vegas (Thompson, 2005a) or following McGovern or Nixon on the campaign trail (Thompson, 1983). His subjective, first-person, literary journalism includes elements of autobiography, and he also published autobiographical works such as Kingdom of Fear (Thompson, 2003) as well as volumes of his letters such as The Proud Highway (Thompson, 1997) and Fear and Loathing in America (Thompson, 2006). Much has also been written by others about the life of this journalist, author and activist, whose lifestyle and legendary exploits are inextricably entangled with the writings, Gonzo and otherwise, for which Thompson became famous.

Ralph Steadman, Thompson’s long-time illustrator and partner-in-crime, wrote a memoir of their collaboration (Steadman, 2006), and Thompson’s Aspen-based friends and neighbours Michael Cleverly and Bob Braudis wrote a collection...

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