I'm no psychiatrist, but I think it's fairly safe to say Hunter S. Thompson was crazy. If not crazy, then eccentric to the point being dangerous (if not to others, then most definitely to himself). Here was a man who once ordered seven banana splits and seven banana daiquiris at a dinner with author Tom Wolfe, only to order seven more of each later on in the evening.
And that's one of the more innocuous stories about the man. Legends of Thompson abound. They usually involve booze, drugs, firearms or a combination of the three. Needless to say, these anecdotes have now replaced Thompson's top quality writing as the main source of the author's posthumous fame.
This is a shame. Thompson was a good writer – one of the best of his day – but that's all been forgotten.
Of course a lot of this can be blamed on Thompson himself. Like Hemingway before him, the man seemed to truly relish his renegade image and bad boy reputation. Still, Thomspon, like Hemingway, felt that the writing, not the lifestyle, was the most important thing.
Unfortunately for Thompson, the public, by and large, has disagreed.
Should we be surprised, though? Aren't we all guilty of ignoring the serious side of people if we see those people as being a bit strange? We may like such individuals, admire them, even. In the end, though, it's hard to see them as being one of us. Therefore their accomplishments, impressive though they may be, aren't quite as notable as their quirks.
Ultimately, however, we lose out as much as the people we stubbornly refuse to take seriously. Thompson, for instance, wrote many memorable books, from Hell's Angels, to The Rum Diary to Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas. By ignoring the work in favor of all those outrageous stories, we ignore half the man – as well as a whole lot of good writing.
Although it's irresponsible to promote the lifestyle Thompson espoused both in and outside his literary work, it's good to view the man as an example of what happens when the uniqueness of an individual overshadows the seriousness. It happens all the time in the everyday world and all of us, without exception, are responsible for it.
We should be mindful.