So what does it feel like to write something that will inspire audiences for generations? Apparently it feels like another day at the office, as it turns out some of the greatest works of all time weren't intended to be classics... and often were just dashed off for the hell of it.
6Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
It changed a generation. It was supposed to be a report on a motorcycle race.
When Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas stumbled into the American literary scene in 1972 it was almost immediately embraced as a new classic, and has been screaming incoherently at the other classics and eating all the shrimp at their parties ever since.
It is the tale of two barely fictionalized versions of Thompson and prominent civil rights attorney Oscar Zeta Acosta (you can see him here in a yellow fishnet t-shirt) who leave a swath of destruction and crumpled plastic baggies across the desert. It's a manic and increasingly frustrated search for the American Dream in a world where Richard Nixon is President; JFK, MLK and Jimi Hendrix are dead and this is considered an appropriate way to dress:
Really? 'Slack Power' is a better slogan than 'Once You Go Slack'? Really?
Some of you may be more familiar with Terry Gilliam's film version of the novel, the poster of which is immediately recognizable to anyone who has ever spent more than five minutes inside a college bookstore.
While there, you'll also find comics starring the character based heavily on Thompson, Spider Jerusalem.
But it All Got Started When...
Appropriately enough, the entirety of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas came to be because Thompson was on assignment from Rolling Stone to report on some retarded dirt bike race in the middle of the crappy desert.
Thompson spent so much of his time summing up the post-hippie zeitgeist that folks tend to forget that he got his start as a sports writer, and remained one up until his death (his suicide note was famously titled Football Season is Over.")
Over for YOU, anyway!
Thompson, never one for deadlines, responsibilities or coherence, started sending his bosses pages ripped out of his personal journal. Go ahead, try that at your job, see how it goes. Especially if your journal includes paragraphs like this:
"The sporting editors had also given me $300 in cash, most of which was already spent on extremely dangerous drugs. The trunk of the car looked like a mobile police narcotics lab. We had two bags of grass, 75 pellets of mescaline, five sheets of high-powered blotter acid, a saltshaker half-full of cocaine, and a whole galaxy of multi-colored uppers, downers, screamers, laughers . . . and also a quart of tequila, a quart of rum, a case of Budweiser, a pint of raw ether and two dozen amyls."
But, if you're Hunter S. Thompson, your editor sends it off for immediate publication and you become the voice of your generation.
The lesson? Contrary to what your parents told you, drugs and motorcycle racing go together beautifully.
5Alice in Wonderland
One of the most beloved tales of all time was something a guy made up off the top of his head to please his 10-year-old girlfriend.
Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland is a classic kid's story about a little girl that finds herself transported into a magical alternate universe that reflects and lampoons our own; including humorous explorations into the subjects of mathematics, statistics, logic and linguistics. Sort of like a Victorian xkcd, but with worse art.
GET THAT FUCKING THING AWAY FROM ME
It's been translated into 125 languages and has been adapted to film dozens of times since the inception of book-adapting technology. There are several silent versions, a Disney version, an anime version, a musical version, an upcoming CGI version and of course a version with some hardcore fucking. It's also responsible for most of the songs written in the 60s, the better parts of The Matrix, a pretty scary-looking video game and even a graphic novel by literary genius Alan Moore, which of course features plenty of hardcore fucking.
It even has an extremely appropriately named medical condition named after it.
But it All Got Started When...
Author Lewis Carroll suffered from a condition that modern biographers have diagnosed as "being a fucking dork." He was home schooled until adolescence, tall and awkward, spoke with a stutter, never married and counted mathematics and logic among his hobbies. But probably his biggest flaw was that he liked to take naked pictures of little girls.
We wonder if the guy doing this portrait ever said "Try not to look so fucking creepy" at any point.
OK, now to be fair, Victorian England was a place and time where pictures of nude children were actually considered pretty cool (apparently, it wasn't terribly uncommon for parents to send out photos of their kids' wieners with the holiday newsletter), and many Carroll scholars believe that his attraction to little girls was purely aesthetic, and free of any sort of eroticism. We will refrain from making any sort of judgment on the matter, but considering Carroll specifically requested that the parents not be present during his naked photo sessions you can imagine how this excuse would hold up when Dateline comes knocking down your door.
"Why don't you just have a seat over there... "
The point is that Carroll wrote Alice in Wonderland at the behest of one of his favorite ladies, 10-year-old Alice Liddell, who was bored out of her mind on some sort of riverboat trip she was taking with her two sisters and Carroll (who was friends with her dad). She asked him to tell her a story, and he did, making it up verbally, on the fly. It was only at her request that he later wrote it down on paper.
This is entirely unlike luring children into your van with promises of candy in the sense that it was somehow socially acceptable and that Carroll actually made good on his promise (sorry to stereotype, but most of the pedophiles we're friends with are extremely unreliable). Oh and Carroll's bait ended up being one of the most beloved works of children's literature of all time. Go figure.