The Proud Highway: Saga of a Desperate Southern Gentleman:
The Fear and Loathing Letters, Volume 1: 1955-1967



The Proud Highway In a time stifled by chaos, the letters of Hunter S. Thompson yield explanations of how a well-known rebel journalist became one of the finest literary writers of our time. Many have found it odd that the young journalist with a notorious reputation for carrying firearms, drinking heavily, and using drugs would keep carbon copies of all the letters he wrote (Walker, 1997). It may also seem rather strange that letters to family, editors, and friends would eventually be published as literary content.

Given the fact that society is now overloaded with telephone and email communication, it may be certain that Thompson will be one of the last great letter writers (Kirkus Reviews, 1997). Thompson's most descriptive phrases were often found in his most hostile of temperaments in letters attacking the American press. In a letter to William J. Kennedy of the San Juan Star, Thompson enthusiastically states his case against Kennedy and journalism in America after Kennedy rejected his first letter seeking employment.

Your letter was very cute, my friend, and your interpretation of my letter was beautifully typical of the cretin-intellect responsible for the dry-rot of the american press. But don't think that lack of an invitation from you will keep me from getting down that way, and when I do remind me to first kick your teeth in and then jam a bronze plaque far into your small intestine (Thompson, pg. 182).

Angry letters like these consume a good portion of the book and his writing presents a backlash against the mediocrity of American life and its Rotarian culture (Bernstein, 1997). The letters as a whole define Thompson's own value system and how his writing was influenced by his own expectations. Even in his early years, Thompson firmly believed there was a positive correlation between his anti-conformist behavior and good writing (Bernstein, 1997). At 21, he wrote to a friend that the best thing for a writer to have is "the ability to live with constant loneliness and a strong sense of revulsion for the banalities of everyday socializing" (Bernstein, 1997).

For Charles Kaiser of the New York Times, the letters obtain instances of humor but for the most part are uninteresting and not particularly well written (Kaiser, 1997). For certain some of the material can be a bit mundane but much of the letters are loaded with humor and wit. The letter that explains Thompson's reasoning for carrying weapons in New York City and describes a violent attack by a group of hoodlums is extremely entertaining (Thompson, pg. 189). The letter written to Dale advising the young 14-year old to be his own man and shun any activity with the Hell's Angels entertains the idea that Thompson's concern for the few outweighs his disdain for the many (Thompson, pg 627). The letter also gives evidence to his feelings on conforming to the standards of the everyday journalist (Wavell, 1997). After all, How often do journalists take the time to return mail from a 14-year old boy?

After the publication of The Proud Highway, Thompson published a fiction piece titled The Rum Diary in 1998. His latest book is titled Fear and Loathing in America: The Brutal Odyssey of an Outlaw Journalist 1968-1976 (Gonzo Letters, Vol. 2.) is the sequal to The Proud Highway, and hit book stores in December of 2000.




Thompson began his journalism career as the sports editor for the Command Courier at Eglin Air Force Base in Fort Walton Beach, FL.

The story of Joe Louis is an old one; the story of the star which has out-lived its light; the soaring meteor which failed to explode in mid-air at the height of its climb, but plummeted down to the same earth with the millions who, moments before, had stared wide-eyed at its beauty. HST, "Fame is a One-Way Ticket," Dec. 17, 1956.




Thompson would often write in a joking manner to amuse his friends.

In the short span of three weeks, I have become addicted to morphine, cheddar cheese extract, and three more forms of sexual perversion. I need moral aid - send money and a Gideon Bible to Emanuel Hunteros Nama, 110 Morningside Drive, Apt. 53, New York, New York.
(Thompson, pg. 93)


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