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.