If you are going to write a biography of the journalist Hunter S. Thompson, the one thing you should never be is capital O Objective. To be Objective--a word Thompson loathed-- would be to have missed the point of your subject and Timothy Denevi has certainly not missed the point. By adopting (or imitating) Thompson’s gonzo style in Freak Kingdom (PublicAffairs, $28), Denevi creates a necessarily fast-paced narrative of the most significant decade of Thompson’s life (1964-1974). He also succeeds in drawing a revisionist portrait of Thompson that never quite dispels the drug-addled caricature one finds in Doonesbury’s Uncle Duke, nor should it. Denevi resuscitates an important and unfortunately overlooked aspect of Thompson’s political thought: his true commitment to lowercase r republican virtues and ultimately to the Dream of America, rather than the American Dream. This Thompson, who Denevi strives to portray as an opponent to the Ever Present Specter of Fascism: American Style, appears more as a nuanced and thoughtful figure whose idiosyncrasies are not simply those of a drug-addled freak, but of a different sort of patriot. Denevi’s Thompson is a patriot loyal to America’s highest aspirations, democracy, multiculturalism, and equality, while antagonistic to its Lowest Common Discriminators, namely, Richard Milhous Nixon.
Freak Kingdom by Timothy Denevi
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Published: PublicAffairs - October 30th, 2018