Appreciation #4

Hunter S. Thompson by Joseph S. Pete

Hunter S Thompson

ALL-TIME AMERICAN WRITERS TOURNAMENT

Every year since 2014, the alt weekly Nuvo has run an Indianapolis 500 guide for the benefit of “naïve first-timers to the Speedway, their minds filled with excitement and sugar plums, totally oblivious to some of the ugly realities awaiting them – the inherent, unavoidable realities of cramming 800,000 people or whatever into a 2.5 mile POWDER KEG OF INTENSITY AND/OR BEER.” Author Roy Hobbson was clearly channeling Hunter S. Thompson and specifically “The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved” when he penned lines like “that is how it has been done for GENERATIONS, since AJ Foyt and Beowulf built this heavenly Speedway out of bricks & sorcery some 2,500 years ago.”

It’s a testament to Dr. Gonzo that so many writers emulate or channel him, especially when covering major events or politics. Many young journalists go through a Hunter S. Thompson phase, often while cutting their teeth for their college newspaper.

The author of “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” “Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail” and “Fear and Loathing on ESPN’s short-lived bid for respectability Page 2” got great himself through imitation.

Long before his legendary drug binges and manic bursts of gonzo journalism, Thompson honed his craft in his native Louisville by retyping “The Great Gatsby” and “A Farewell to Arms” in full.

Perhaps the greatest testament to the late great Raoul Duke is that anytime politics get weird, someone inevitably will lament he’s no longer around to cover it.
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Joseph S. Pete is an award-winning journalist, an Iraq War veteran and a Baconfest Chicago Poet Laureate who’s been widely published in journals like Lumpen, the Blue Collar Review, Stoneboat and Prairie Winds.

 

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Appreciation #2

“Nelson Algren” by Joseph S. Pete

ALL-TIME AMERICAN WRITERS TOURNAMENT

nelson algren 3

Nelson Algren loathed the film adaptation of “The Man with the Golden Arm,” refusing to be photographed by a marquee of a movie he “had nothing to do with” and saying Frank Sinatra’s take on down-on-his-luck vet Frankie Machine made it look like he was trying to recover from a cold instead of quit morphine.

But it landed the Detroit-born Chicagoan a windfall he used to buy a beach cottage in the Miller neighborhood of nearby Gary, Indiana. One winter, he bought a six-pack from a package store and took a popular shortcut across an iced-over lagoon, but the ice cracked and gave way, plunging him into frigid water. Though delirious, he warned rescuers not to venture onto the brittle ice and instead throw a rope to drag him out.

Algren was always like that, empathetic.

His compassion was why he was known as “the bard of the down-and-outer.” Some think he developed a fondness for life’s castaways and woebegone losers after he was jailed for five months in Texas for stealing a typewriter during the Great Depression. They blamed his stubborn attachment to the squalid underbelly of outsiders and sinners for his waning stature, even after he won a National Book Award for Fiction, saying he remained fixated on the downtrodden while society started to view the world in a more optimistic light.

Maybe Algren cared too much. Nobody wrote as well about addicts, the poor, the hustlers, the wretched refuse just trying to get by.
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Joseph S. Pete is an award-winning journalist, an Iraq War veteran and a Baconfest Chicago Poet Laureate who’s been widely published in journals like Lumpen, the Blue Collar Review, Stoneboat and Prairie Winds.