Tuesday, January 24, 2012

book review: Generation of Swine by Hunter S. Thompson

"There is all the action you want, from time to time - but in the main it is a dull and dreary life, like journalism."

It takes a long time to get the style of this column and by the time you get it the next emotion is disappointment that he is not around now writing about the current Presidential race and the madness of US politics.

The reason it takes so long to get into the book is because it is badly dated and limited to a US national outlook that does not chime with a UK readership. The events being written about in the column that HST penned for two years for the San Francisco Examiner cover the years of 1987 and 1988.

Reagan is president and coming to the end of his period in the White House. He has become immersed in the Oliver North Iran/Contra scandal but because of his clear dementia he has little chance of being impeached. That leaves the mess potentially impacting the Bush run at the presidency and towards the end of this collection of columns it has become clear that Bush has sidestepped the scandal and looks set for the Republican nomination.

So much of the columns focuses on the runners and riders in both the Democrat and Republican parties with professional gambler HST giving the odds and the forecasts of what will happen.

But that and to a degree the mentions of topical foreign policy are not really the parts of the book that work now. They have not traveled well and I suspect even a modern day US reader would struggle to connect the references.

So having admitted that the content is usually dated, of limited value to an overseas reader you might wonder what on earth this collection of columns has to offer.

The answer is to do with style because what these fairly consistent length pieces do is pin HST down to a weekly deadline and a word count that forces him to be tight. Sometimes he is repetitive in the way he starts the columns indicating that he rather liked a pattern that perhaps killed off quickly 40 or 50 words. But it also allows him to show off his ability to deliver a heady mix of allegory, humour and accurate insight into people and events.

The allegory took me a while to get but that is the part that grows throughout the book and when you read these columns you realise that if it was talken literally then law suits and a swift end to the series would have followed.

This is not the best place to get a feel for HST, it's not even a good book in the sense of a reading experience but it has something to offer and there is a reward for trudging through the historical policitical references.

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