A Review of a Recent HST Quote Book

For the past year or so, I’ve frequently seen Amazon advertisements for a book that seems to be called Hunter S. Thompson’s Little Book of Selected Quotes: on Life, America, and Adventure. I was obviously sceptical and so I did not buy it, but yesterday my curiosity got the better of me.

First of all, I’m not entirely sure what the title is. The cover makes it seem as though the book is called When The Going Gets Weird, The Weird Turn Pro, but on Amazon it is Hunter S. Thompson’s Little Book of Selected Quotes. There is nothing inside to confirm either one.

But hey, let’s not judge a book by its cover or its title. There’s plenty more to judge…

Unfortunately, the book is a steaming pile of shit. Perhaps that sounds unfair, but you wouldn’t say that if you’d read it. All I can say is that at least it was cheap.

The book begins with a biographical overview but it is pretty inaccurate. It claims Thompson’s mother “suffered from mental illness, and his father was a heavy drinker who was often absent from his life.” Whilst Thompson’s dad was not the most hands-on father, he was no alcoholic, nor was his mother mentally ill.

Perhaps it is just poor writing, but this biography also suggests that Thompson developed Gonzo Journalism whilst in the Air Force and that he wrote for Rolling Stone around the same time (many years before RS came into existence).

Perhaps the most egregious error, however, is the claim that “his coverage of the 1968 Democratic National Convention […] brought him national attention.” Um, no. He wrote about it but nothing he wrote was published for many, many years. That event changed his life but it did not bring him fame.

Altogether, the introductory biography is pithy and inaccurate, sounding rather like a school report that has rehashed a Wikipedia entry. It is also repetitive. The writer says Thompson’s “legacy is a testament to the power of the written word” twice in two pages! He repeats this two more times later in the book.

So much for the introduction. The only good thing I can say is that the author at least appreciates the importance of Thompson and makes the following observation:

Despite his reputation as a countercultural icon, Thompson’s work was deeply rooted in American literary tradition. He was a master of the English language, able to craft prose that was both poetic and accessible. […] Thompson’s impact on American literature cannot be overstated. He inspired a generation of writers to embrace a more personal, subjective style of journalism, and his influence can be seen in the work of journalists and novelists alike. His legacy is a testament to the power of the written word and the enduring appeal of the American rebel.

I would agree with all of that, but still the whole introduction smacks of the sort of rubbish “content” you get when you hire a random person on Fiverr.

Next, we have the quotes themselves. Sadly, there is no organisation to these. It is just a large assortment of sentences taken at random from Thompson’s various books. Admittedly, these are mostly good quotes and they are mostly real as well. However, they are not cited and many of them are chopped up, causing them to lose their value. Some of them are even censored! Can you imagine the tantrum Thompson would’ve thrown?

This disorganisation continues in the appendix, where there are various guides to Thompson’s books. Why these are not listed chronologically or in any other order is beyond me. Again, they appear like crappy school reports cribbed from Wikipedia. It is lazy and amateurish.

Finally, we have a collection of “fascinating facts” about Thompson. This begins, irritatingly enough, with a completely false one:

Thompson would type out entire novels by renowned authors.

No. He typed out several pages of Hemingway and Fitzgerald. He was keen to get into the rhythm of their prose but no one would type out an entire book like that and he never claimed to have done so. It is one of many myths surrounding his life.

Altogether, this book was pretty damn awful. Looking at the Amazon page for the publisher, I can see that they churn out these little quote books and then advertise the hell out of them. Little thought goes into the content.

As I said, at least it was cheap. I must admit that there were some good quotes in there but would it be so hard to have them cited or verified in some way? I noticed at least one that I knew to be fake. I say it so often these days, but Hunter deserves better than this.

Instead of wasting your money on this, go read literally anything else by or about Hunter Thompson. Here’s a list of his books and here’s a list of ones about him.

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