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What is Gonzo Journalism?

Goodmorning. It’s a beautiful spring day in Manhattan. The trees are blossoming, people are smiling with a hint of new tan on their faces from lying in the green grass of central park. Love is in the air. Tomorrow is my wedding anniversary with Hunter, my brain prepares for my last week of classes, but my heart is thinking about him more than ever.  I have 750 – 850 pages to read before finals but I’m not even worried about it. Not after taking a break to read from Shark Hunt – any story in there is good thearpy for me.

Lask week I was thinking heavily about journalism as I watched the media mishandle and warp the Virginia Tech story. I think Hunter would be disapointed by their handling of it,, but he wouldn’t be surprised.

So, with journalism and journalists on my mind,  I picked out a great one for you today. Hunter has given the definition of Gonzo Journalism many times, but this is one of my favorite explanations. It is from the jacket copy to Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas  was first published in Shark Hunt. I thought I’d share it with you on this Monday morning: 


  …Gonzo Journalism.  It is a style of “reporting” based on William Faulkner’s idea that the best fiction is far more true than journalism – and the best journalists have always known this.

            Which is not to say that Fiction is necessarily “more true” than Journalism – or vice versa – but that both “fiction” and “journalism” are artificial categories; and that both forms, at their best, are only two different means to the same end.  This is getting pretty heavy… so I should cut back and explain, at some point, the Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is a failed experiment in Gonzo Journalism.  My idea was to buy a fat notebook and record the whole thing, as it happened, then send in the notebook for publication – without editing.  That way, I felt, the eye & mind of the journalist would be functioning as a camera.  The writing would be selective & necessarily interpretive – but once the image was written, the words would be final; in the same way that a Cartier-Bresson photograph is always (he says) the full-frame negative.  No alterations in the dark-room, no cutting or cropping, no spotting…no editing.

            But this is a hard thing to do, and in the end I found myself imposing an essentially fictional framework on what began as a piece of straight/crazy journalism. True Gonzo reporting needs the talents of a master journalist, the eye of an artist/photographer and the heavy balls of an actor.  Because the writer must be a participant in the scene, while he’s writing it – or at least taping it, or even sketching it.  Or all three.  Probably the closest analogy to the ideal would be a film director/producer who writes his own scripts, does his own camera work and somehow manages to film himself in action, as the protagonist or at least a minor character.

– Hunter S. Thompson The Great Shark Hunt


Until Next time, your friend,

Anita Thompson


p.s. There are some more Gonzo memorial prints left and Peter will be posting an image and link on the left in the coming days. He has put the gonzo store back up and is ordering some great summer t-shirts and things.  


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