- The Washington Times - Monday, March 7, 2005

Late flower

“Hunter S. Thompson … was a high-strung, thin-skinned, programmatically dissipated workaholic, inveterately suspicious of authority, perpetually worried that his best days were behind him, and unable to deal with the attention and success that he scrambled and sweated for many years to achieve. In other words, he was a magazine writer. …

“Thompson emerged on the scene in the late 1960s. His first book, on the Hell’s Angels … was published in 1967, when he was 30. … [I]n 1970, he published ‘The Kentucky Derby Is Decadent and Depraved,’ and gonzo journalism was born.

“Gonz was a late flower on the shrub that was the New Journalism, the literary and (often) first-person style of reportage associated with magazines such as Harold Hayes’s Esquire and Willie Morris’s Harper’s, and with writers such as Gay Talese, Tom Wolfe, Norman Mailer and Joan Didion, all of whom were well-established by 1970. The obsession with violence and chemically induced dementia in Thompson’s writing gave it a kind of post-Altamont, Manson-family, death-of-the-‘60s aura, and made him a favorite not of the protest marchers and flower children of the ‘60s, but of the youth of the burned-out decade that followed.”

Louis Menand, writing on “Believer,” March 7 in the New Yorker

‘Pie’ to parenthood

“Those of us who detected a glimmer of maturity in the seminal 1999 teen sex comedy ‘American Pie’ have been vindicated of late by its director, Paul Weitz. With ‘About a Boy’ … and now, ‘In Good Company,’ Weitz has revealed himself to be an acute social observer, a familial storyteller, and a budding moralist.

“Who would have guessed such words would one day describe the same man who gained prominence by portraying a teen’s amorous relations with baked goods? …

“Good parenting takes many forms; ‘In Good Company’ nobly celebrates quite a few of them.”

Josh Larsen, writing on “The Power of a Good Family Man,” in the March issue of the American Enterprise

Celebrity culture

“[T]he celebrity culture of Hollywood … is now the culture of everyone, like it or not, who wants to take any part in the national conversation.

“Among the things it teaches is that history must be understood in personal terms, and that we must always look past the public figure for the private person within. Obviously, the more screwed up this inner man is, or can be represented as being, the better it is for the celebrity culture, which thrives on the kind of voyeurism we see in varying degrees in all the recent spate of big biopics — ‘The Aviator,’ ‘Kinsey,’ ‘Ray,’ ‘The Motorcycle Diaries,’ ‘Alexander,’ even ‘The Assassination of Richard Nixon,’ if you allow that Sean Penn’s would-be assassin also counts as a celebrity.

“In fact … it was precisely in order to achieve celebrity status that Mr. Penn’s real-life prototype undertook his ill-fated attempt on the president’s life in 1974.

“At any rate, he was as screwed up as we love our celebrities to be. Likewise, Alexander was gay, Che was asthmatic … , Ray Charles was a drug addict, Kinsey was kinky … and Howard Hughes was, well, nuts.”

James Bowman, writing on “Midsize Man,” in the March issue of the American Spectator

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