Best of HST.
This is Hunter in his prime: he's young and wild and pissed off, and the English language in his hands becomes just as young and wild. What you get from the Rolling Stone work is eighteen hours of Thompson's most precise, observant, and gregarious reporting, including chunks of Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas, as well as the meat of Fear & Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72. You get Nixon, you get Jimmy Carter, you get the whole works. And of course, football. But what you really get is one of the greatest courses on twentieth century American history available, without the crippling reverence to the system that renders a great deal of journalism irrelevant and dull. This is critical text.
This guy did his homework. I think it's perfectly appropriate to try to read this work in the writer's voice, since it's so thoroughly saturated with the writer's voice. There's no other way to say it than Gigante did his best Hunter S Thompson impression, and it's spot on. Seriously.
I guess having the physical text would be a kind of fetishistic necessity for fans of HST. But taking the time to listen to this audiobook is simply necessary for students of American literature and history. It's essentially like listening to a live reading by the man himself.
I remember reading Gatsby in high school, and I remember watching the film later, but somehow, for some reason, Gatsby was never accessible to me. Maybe it's just that I've gotten older and the content isn't so mysterious. Tim Robbins's reading is just wonderful. I got the impression he loves this text. His voices are spot on, bringing out the humor that before was lost to 15-year-old me. And now all I want to do with my time is read Fitzgerald.
Here's the thing about this book. As the cover says, the text of Hey Rube is taken from Thompson's contributions to the ESPN.com Sports Desk, beginning in 2001. You can still read many of the pages on ESPN's site. By this point, Thompson had more or less run out of gas. In Hey Rube, you can expect a lot of... a lot of... a lot of football.
But because it's HST, you can also expect a lot of politics, whenever he can find a way to sneak it in. Because the majority of these pieces are written in the immediate wake of 9/11, negotiating football into talk of politics is a gimme. Be prepared to encounter some of Hunter's finest writing in the entry from 9/12/01. It's the culmination of a lifetime of work among the American political machine and the endless series of wars that was the twentieth century. Most of the observations he makes about the war resulting from the attacks on 9/11... were dead on. That said, if you're not a Thompson die-hard, watch the first ten minutes of the recent documentary 'Gonzo,' and you'll get the best of it. Read infinitely better. Otherwise, if you can wade through endless news clips of football, football, football, you'll find a few magnificent moments.
Okay. That's the text itself. The actual reading is a completely different matter, and I still can't believe I made it through. Let's get one thing straight: even at his least inspired, Hunter's a consummate craftsman. His language is as full of nuance and personality as the words can possibly hold. So why they chose this particular reader is beyond me. And what's even more beyond my ken is why this guy is reading the majority of the HST audiobooks here! It seems to me Sowers either knew nothing about Thompson or his work, or the director of these audio recordings didn't give a rat's ass (can I say that?) how they turned out. Sowers doesn't read, he yells in a grating monotone. It's either a Monday Night Football preview, or a day in boot camp, and it just doesn't work.
Short version: if you're into Thompson's work to the extent that you need this one, just buy the text and read it. If you're looking for a great listen that'll educate you about all things HST in one of the greatest audiobook readings of all time, check out Fear & Loathing at Rolling Stone. It's absolutely magnificent, completely addicting. If the rest of Thompson's work were handled with as much love & care as Phil Gigante gave to reading (& obviously researching) the RS work, we'd be very fortunate indeed.
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