Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Present at the Creation

The Internet Review of Books fired up on-line yesterday with Volume 1, Number 1. I've joined Carter Jefferson, Bob Sanchez, and Ruth Doulliette in the enterprise.

With a little brass, we -- meaning Mr. Jefferson -- managed to secure a name to write the featured review. Knopf's publication of Due Considerations: Essays and Criticisms by John Updike was given over to Sven Birkerts, the editor of AGNI, for review.

Not one to shy for allying myself with good company, I reviewed Gonzo: The Life of Hunter S. Thompson.

We weren't tasked to give a book stars, a number rating, or place it on a scale, and I don't know if I could. Books are a must read for those interested in ... the author, the subject, or the genre. Any other person will view a reviewed book through the eyes of a reviewer.

I knew something about Thompson. I had read gonzo stuff by him, and by other people. A distinction arises, though, when a reader begins to compare the white-suit-wearing, Ph.D.-sporting Tom Wolfe -- The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test -- to a hard-luck Kentucky boy fueled by cocaine and alcohol who wrote what he lived.

If you liked Thompson's work, though -- if you admired it for his full-throttle drunken romps through the English language -- you should read Gonzo.

Was he an important literary figure in the last half of the 20th Century? I think so, perhaps not so much for his work but rather for knocking down propriety's fence, for thinking about truth rather than manners, for challenging authority in a fashion that makes it possible for the less reckless to chance a rotten tomato in the face of the self-absorbed, greedy oligarchy that would have us clog our arteries with chloresterol, drive our SUVs, and mindlessly watch faux reality shows.

WASHINGTON -- -- After smothering efforts by war critics in Congress to drastically cut U.S. troop levels in Iraq, President Bush plans to ask lawmakers next week to approve another massive spending measure -- totaling nearly $200 billion -- to fund the war through next year, Pentagon officials said.

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