License to Rant

Appeared in the Tampa Bay Times, Aug. 11, 2004

What’s the appeal of curling up by the fireplace with a warm laptop? A book is more comforting and – despite technological advances – still  more portable than a notebook computer. Heck, it’s hard to improve upon perfection and a book is one of humanity’s greatest hits.

Hunter S. Thompson

Sure, the Internet is great for looking up recipes, avoiding malls and plagiarizing term papers, but we don’t think much of it when it comes to literature. Maybe that will change.

For four years, Hunter S. Thompson – the purveyor of Gonzo Journalism – has been writing a column for “Page 2,” a deep-in-the-Web-site feature of If you’re a Thompson fan, you know this. You probably have as your home page and you get your Hunter fix once a week when his column is posted.

But if you have a life, you probably don’t park yourself in front of a computer anymore than you have to. Good news for us, then: Hey Rube is the first collection drawn from Thompson’s online columns.

As we’ve come to expect from Thompson, it’s a sometimes-rabid foaming-at-the-mouth collection of screeds about sports, politics and music (in that order). And, as always, it’s insightful, laugh-out-loud funny and masterfully written.

Thompson came like a fireball out of the end of the 1960s, trailing his breakthrough Hell’s Angels book and launching the double-barreled assault that was his masterpiece, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and its companion, Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ’72. Full of bile for then-President Richard Nixon, Thompson was vicious and brilliant in his appraisals of America as it entered the last quarter of the 20th Century.

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And then he disappeared – or seemed to. When Nixon limped off to exile at San Clemency, it was as if Thompson’s muse had walked out on him. He was quiet for much of a decade, then returned in an unlikely place – columnist for a daily newspaper – and began collecting the record of his life in his books of letters and in other autobiographical tomes. Writing for a sports Web site was not such a weird place to turn up, especially since Thompson was recruited by John Walsh, the ESPN editor who had guided him through some of his greatest work with Rolling Stone.

Hey Rube is Thompson’s look at the first years of the 21st Century. Several of the early pieces (it’s mostly chronological) are aimed at the thuggery of modern sports. Thompson rages at the sports establishment but has a puppy-dog love for athletics.

The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks draw Thompson away from his diatribes on professional sport (after he offers his “New Rules of Baseball,” which call for eliminating the pitcher from the game because they are “pampered little swine”), and he turns his gaze back to politics.

As brilliant and insightful as he is as a sportswriter, Thompson is unmatched as an observer of American politics and culture. He may have found in President Bush the long-needed replacement for Richard Nixon in his life. Bush provokes Thompson as few other public figures have.

Curl up by the fire – or maybe the barbecue grill, since it’s summer – and read these brilliant Hunter Thompson rants.