The Gonzo text – the literary journalism of Hunter Thompson
More has been written about the life of Hunter S Thompson than about the writing \ud which brought him fame, although the peculiar nature of his first-person literary \ud journalism makes his life and his work impossible to separate. Although the legend of \ud the outlaw journalist is an indispensible feature, the focus of this textually-oriented \ud study is Thompson’s method, conventionally called ‘Gonzo journalism’, and how it \ud operates. Drawing on theories of subjectivity and authorship informed by the work of \ud Derrida, Foucault, Barthes and John Mowitt, I attempt to analyse the Gonzo Text, \ud examining the place of various elements of ‘Gonzo’ style and content. Looking at key \ud themes in Thompson’s oeuvre - principally the problematics around representing drug \ud experiences and the subjective experience of edgework, the nature of myths of objective \ud and professional journalism in the context of political reportage, the interrogation of the \ud place of sports in American culture and ideology, and, ultimately, Thompson’s \ud engagement with ‘the death of the American Dream’ – I examine the ways in which the \ud Gonzo Text is constructed. The Text of Gonzo is placed in social, political and \ud historical contexts in terms of both wider American history of the period, and the \ud traditions of American journalism. Gonzo works can be read in terms of Thompson’s \ud renegotiation of the boundaries of reportable experience, of journalism, and even of \ud personal safety and legal liability, with the unusual place of the voice of the author \ud within Gonzo facilitating a unique type of hybrid Text. Blending fact and fiction into \ud undecidability allows the Text to operate in some senses as what Derrida termed a \ud ‘pharmakon’ – a site and agent of the instabilities of categories which cannot hold it. \ud Gonzo journalism destabilises conventional ideas of literary journalism, and of \ud journalism itself, in its peculiarly unclassifiable nature.