on April 18, 2005
The best thing about The Great Shark Hunt is that you can pick it up, turn to any page with a subheading, and start reading. An array of various published articles and personal opinions, the book is a compilation of Thompson's work previously aired in the likes of Rolling Stone and (the now defunct) Scanlon's magazines.
There are not many journalistic stones left unturned by the author, the fields covered here including sport, travel, politics, music and the San Francisco hippy movement.
For those not yet familiar with the term `gonzo,' it is a style of reporting pioneered by Hunter that has the author living and breathing the piece and experiencing the subject first hand. His second book Hell's Angels is the best example of this, when he spent a year hanging out with, and was eventually almost beaten to death by, the notorious biker gangs of 60s northern California.
Divided into three sections, The Great Shark Hunt builds with articles from his early days as Air Force newspaper reporter, then onto his period of sports coverage, to his venomous obsession with the abominable Richard Nixon. No expletive is left unused, and anyone foolish enough to piss Dr Thompson off is given the pen-lashing of a lifetime.
Nixon's Watergate scandal in particular strikes a chord with the author, and for anyone wishing to discover more on the incident, this is a good place to get educated in humorous, digestible chunks.
For me, the section of articles written during his tour of South America held particular fondness, as I'm travelling through there this summer. As well as his travelogue that he sent back to the magazine, also published in this section are his private letters to his editor at the time. His growing intolerance to the food, climate and people of the area are first-class travel writing:
"Things are not good here, my man. I'm unable to leave this goddamn room on account of I'm too weak from some kind of jungle fever. The street outside is full of thugs drunk on pisco, and some bastard has been throwing rocks at my window all night. If I hadn't sold my pistol I'd go down there now and crack off a few rounds at his feet."
Drugs (including alcohol) were a major influence on Thompson's life, something that he nearly always used to a positive effect. This is not to say he was unhealthy or any kind of deadbeat (in fact he swam every morning for hours at a time, in whatever part of the world he happened to be), but rather gained him an even wider cult following. Thompson maintained that it was ok to do drugs, but there was a definite divide between use and abuse.
Also brought into the fray here are Oscar Acosta and Ralph Steadman. If you have read Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (if you haven't, you should) or seen the film, Acosta (played in the movie by Academy Award winner Benecio Del Toro) is the character alongside Raoul Duke (played by Johnny Depp), described as a `300-pound Samoan' by Thompson.
This was a profile Acosta was furious with, and subsequently led to an attempt to sue Hunter for defamation of character. Acosta hung out with a bad crowd and vanished - presumed murdered - some time after the book was released.
Ralph Steadman is the artist behind the sketches in Las Vegas and many of Thompson's subsequent publications. His art is as way out as Hunter's writing, a twisted collage of grotesque caricatures and splash art.
One hilarious recount of Thompson and Steadman's drunken attempt at vandalizing a yacht is absolutely hysterical and leads to Steadman fleeing back to his native England vowing never to see Thompson again.
The Great Shark Hunt is not the easiest of reads in parts, mainly due to the fact that Thompson goes so deep into the politics of the time, and name-checks those involved in specific incidents, that it is impossible to stay with the drift. My advice would be to skim-read the middle, political section articles until you find a piece that interests you.
The style is always there though: passionate, scathing and down-to-earth. His suicide earlier this year was met with a reaction of sadness, but then people remembered that the man was not only as mad as they come, but was also a legend that lived life to the full and on the edge.
Ralph Steadman sums it up nicely: "He told me 25 years ago that he would feel real trapped if he didn't know that he could commit suicide at any moment. I don't know if that is brave or stupid or what, but it was inevitable."
The man may be gone, but his books are plentiful and in shops and libraries worldwide. The Great Shark Hunt is an excellent place to start for those new to his work, and an essential publication for those in the know.
Please, please do yourself a favour.
on January 31, 2005
The Great Shark Hunt is one of the best books I have ever read. Thompson's writing style and political beliefs just makes you never let go. He's so unpredictable; you'll be very impressed as you start to enjoy the way he writes. The metaphors and phrases that he uses make him so much more unique then any other writer. This book is very straight forward but keeps you hooked. When he describes our former presidents, it really makes you think about a lot of things. He makes you wish that you could be different, and have a different attitude towards everything. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys foul language and funny stories about one of the craziest men in the United States. His stories are just outrageous and unbelievable, but it's all true. This book has inspired me to just take life by the horns and never look back. So whenever your in a book store look around and check out this book, you may like it or you may not, but it wouldn't hurt to spice things up a bit and take a crazy trip into Hunter S. Thompson's head. I sure enjoyed the trip, you should too.
on June 23, 2014
This is a must-read collection of Thompson's work from his prime in the mid-60s through late 70s. It collects, as no other volume does, his writing about the Brown Power movement that his friend Oscar Acosta was part of, his trials and tribulations with Richard Nixon (outside of the campaign in '72 and including Watergate), and the various fragments, features, and figments that came together to be Gonzo journalism.
Unlike Generation of Swine, Kingdom of Fear, Songs of the Doomed, and Hey Rube, this volume collects the work that Thompson did BEFORE his style was canonized and blessed by the popular press. This means that it is mostly very fresh, and that it is written with a tongue-in-cheek acknowledgment that what being a writer in America is all about is creating your own legend. You can feel the fact that he is aware that this is one way to be remembered like Hemingway, Fitzgerald, London, Mencken, or Twain, but that he also remembers what happened to those writers. The uneasy pieces of introspection here, such as Thompson's internal view of Mohammed Ali's promotional machine, remind us that he knew what he was doing, and he knew what it would ultimately cost.
The later, less satisfying books are so because of this cost. The Great Shark Hunt, however, is the moment of choice--the moment when we can feel him choosing whether to upend the applecart or to allow himself to go along with the hustle, knowing that it will leave him set for life. It's almost enough to excuse...
Nah, nevermind. Just know that while this is perhaps the best look at the way in which the American romance with literature intersects with the legend we allow ourselves to believe when we don't want to admit that we're all a bunch of sleazy grifters who are looking for our own simple way to become rentiers. Thompson connects those dots for us, showing how the self-made man who was a drifter, the used car salesman, the firebrand politico, and the sensation-driven, oppression-reinforcing 'mainstream' journalist are all just different brands of the same desperate attempt to avoid relegated to a life of labor.
He rides this hustle well, too, even if he cons us into believing that he's doing it because he's disgusted with the grift and not because he's benefitting from it.
I won't ignore the racist language in here, though. It's clear from some of Thompson's earlier pieces that he wants an equal and just society, but some of the ways he casually tosses slurs around will make you uneasy. Sometimes, it's clear he's using the language of white trash to address white trash, and his sarcasm shows that he doesn't mean it. Other times...
Thompson's work is about riding a thin line between absolute virtue mocking the degenerate and actual degenerate behavior. Riding that line means crossing it on occasion, whether by mistake or on purpose. That's not to minimize or defend his choices when he does, it is just to acknowledge that it happens. Read it to criticize it or pass it by because of the fact, but don't say that you weren't warned.
It's ugly. It's brutish. It's a pretty thorough depiction of white America's cultural id during the back half of the twentieth century. Use it as you see fit.
on February 24, 2015
Very funny, as you would expect, and the historical predictions he goes into are fun to review in light of what really happened. This guy is a hilarious writer and you can tell that he lived his life in an active and involved way that also allowed him to maintain perspective on the degeneracy of our society.
on November 25, 2009
HST, in his essay (included in this book) "What Lured Hemingway to Ketchum?", talks about how Hemingway reflected the Zeitgeist of his time, and as that era faded, Hemingway faded as well. After World War II the world changed, but Hemingway could not, and Hemingway eventually ended his life with a self-inflicted gunshot wound. I was struck, in reading that essay, by how much his observations could have been about Thompson himself. An outrageous, self-indulgent and wild creature of the Sixties, this book captures the height of his creative power and instinct in symbiosis with the memetic explosion of the Sixties. But as the world changed, HST was, like Hemingway, trapped by that declining Zeitgeist. The further the Sixties slid into history, the less relevant Thompson became because, like Hemingway, he was unwilling to adapt. Thompson, like Hemingway, lived the last years of his life in a remote cabin with the few people he still understood. Thompson, like Hemingway, ended his life with a gun.
It's difficult, however, to criticize HST cognizant of how much of our contemporary culture was created or made possible by him. A parallel can be seen in Hunter S. Thompson's contemporary Timothy Leary. It's in vogue among psychedelic people to call Leary, Nixon's "Public Enemy Number One", the worst thing that happened to the psychedelic experiment of the 20th century. Perhaps, but these men, Thompson and Leary, created our world. It's tough to imagine how they, as creative individuals, could have been anything but mirrors of the Zeitgeist. If Thompson had not been a crazy, weird, irresponsible, self-indulgent rogue, what would he have been? He would have been just a failed Air Force sports writer. I firmly believe the same thing of Leary - these men were created by the Sixties and really had no choice about the role they had to play. They had to play the clowns, because the era was a circus.
At least Leary continued to engage the fin de siecle world and strove to stay relevant, for example by being an early pioneer in the personal computer revolution. Thompson narcissistically and lazily rode the wave only until it ebbed, then gave up. Hunter S. Thompson never tried to understand the strange new world that grew around him as the century ended. To our continuing loss, he took the easy way out.
on September 20, 2000
Hunter S. Thompson is the craziest author that I have ever read. He has a specific style that I have never really seen before. He will go from one idea directly into a totally different one, and then back. The book itself is basically little stories composed on Thompson's experiences as a journalist. The stories take place generally in the 70's, and they are crazy. His constant religious metaphors are often hard to follow. My favorite story in the book is "Fear and Loathing at the Super Bowl." This is about a time when he was covering the Miami Super Bowl game. He is in a hotel and spends his time gambling and drinking. Drugs are a major influence on his life, which is one of the reasons he writes the way that he does. Throughout the story, you are introduced to many strange characters. These characters are described through the eyes of Thomson, which makes them all the more stranger. Thomson talks about preaching from his 15th story hotel room and in the lobby. The next second he is paranoid that the manager is after him. Thomson is an incredible journalist and writer, and his stories are outrageously interesting and thought provoking.
on January 31, 2005
The Great Shark Hunt is one of the best books I have ever read. Hunter S. Thompson has a very uniqe style of writing. He uses alot of metaphors and phrases that will make the book entertaining to young and old readers. I would recommend this book to anyone above the age of 16 only because of his word usage and harsh language.
His life is very interesting. As you read through the pages, you get hooked instantly. Each page is very unpredictable. If you enjoy comedy then this is a great book for you. Hunter also has uniqe political beliefs that are kind of outragious but in way makes you think about our society. He really makes you think about your life and beliefs on different things. So if you think your ready for a very long but very funny biography of one of the craziest men in the United States, then The Great Shark Hunt is just for you.
on April 5, 1999
Thompson always seemed most at home with the guerilla tactics he used to re-define journalism. These brief attacks at all that Western society holds sacred demonstrate the iconoclastic impact that Thompson can have when he's at his best. I think this book's crowning jewel would be Thompson's travels through South America. It is a startlingly sympathetic look at social conditions and ways of life by an author who too often has come to be thought of as an absurd hedonist. My one minor complaint would be that I don't share Thompson's fascination with Nixon, and I found the excerpts from "...Campaign Trail," a bit tedious. They are, however, by no means unreadable, and this book is definitely a recommendation.
on December 26, 2007
Hunter S. Thompson was a raving lunatic, a mad professor, a crackpot, and a Genius all wrapped up in one. If you're up for a wild ride through the late sixties and early seventies then get this book - nobody else has come close to describing those times so well. I found myself giggling like a Moron at some of the outrageous things that Thompson did and said, and pounding my fist in anger at other things that the Mad Doctor did and said. At certain intervals during this read I vowed to never touch another Thompson book, but there were times that I couldn't put it down, and eagerly anticipated his other books. It is worth the read for it's insight, and for the jaw-dropping affect that Thompson causes so easily and so frequently.
on January 28, 2014
If you are into strange writing and twisted way of getting to know about things. This book is great.
Hooked by Hunter S. Thompson and his irreverent wit and Gonzo ways