Mark Victor Young's Reviews > Better Than Sex: Confessions of a Political Junkie

Better Than Sex by Hunter S. Thompson
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Jun 21, 2009

really liked it
Read in October, 1994

"No wonder the poor bastards from Generation X have lost their sense of humor about politics. Some things are not funny to the doomed..."

Though he tried desperately to avoid it, Hunter S. Thompson in this book again casts himself into the pit of despair that is modern politics. It is "Fear and Loathing" all over again, but this time on the Campaign Trail '92. He was lured in partly by his hatred of Bush and the hope that he could be beaten, and partly because of his addiction to politics; the quick highs, the cheap rush that is better than sex.

Luckily for us, Hunter S. hadn't lost any of the weirdness, the paranoid edge, the rabid fervour and passion that made his "gonzo" journalism so different. He may have done a few less drugs, shot a few less typewriters, but he hadn't lost his anger. Better Than Sex is the account of a desperate man trying "to control his environment" the only way he knows how. His mission: get rid of Bush at all costs. To accomplish this, he reverses his initial support of Clinton in favour of Ross Perot's campaign after Clinton claims "he never inhaled" (a plain outrage to an admitted "inhaler" like H.S.T.) only to return to support of Clinton when he was asked to sign an undated letter of resignation for Mr. Perot, whom he later referred to as a "wretched, shit-eating little swine." It was plainly a case of wanting to vote for the "not-Bush" candidate, or, as the author puts it, "The enemy of my enemy is my friend."

And so in a barrage of faxes, articles, memos to editors, and intoxicated diatribes in campaign stop bars, Thompson perpetrates his war on Bush, never stopping to contemplate whether Clinton will be any better. There are some hilariously ill-advised faxes to the Vice-President of CNN, the campaign manager for Clinton, one to Hillary herself--Hunter S. is a faxaholic, and he generally just sends off the first thing that comes to mind, often faxing again later to apologize for the outrage of the previous fax. It is funny stuff, often hand-written, and all are included in their original form.

After the euphoria of the Bush loss wears off, the author is given to brooding about the times to come, even musing that the Republicans might have deliberately chosen to take Bush down so as to avoid responsibility for the death throes of the American economy which are surely to come; let Clinton take the fall for Reaganomics and have a new man ready for '96. Not very far-fetched.

But then again, Hunter S. was always a political doom-sayer. The original Fear and Loathing was that of Nixon, whose death was cause for a brutal eulogy in the last section of this book. Hunter digs him up and stomps on his corpse. The original gonzo journalism sprung out of a hatred for Nixon. On the campaign trail in '72, all he could think about was getting rid of him. Then with The Great Shark Hunt, Thompson lamented the fact that there were no Great Leaders left. Not the kind of career politicians who run for office today, but the kind of man who was elected to office by a swell of popular support, because of his strength of character, his integrity, ingenuity, and ability to lead.

So Gonzo journalism comes full circle, with an intense fear and loathing of Bush and everything he stands for, and a farewell to his old nemesis Richard Nixon. He got rid of both, and yet he still despairs for the future. The "Great Shark Hunt" continues...

"Historians do not call the final ten years of any century 'the Decadence" for no reason. It is always a doomed and dissolute time, and the end of the American Century will be no different... Generation X got off easy compared to the hideous fate of the poor bastards in Generation Z. They will be like steerage passengers on the S.S. Titanic, trapped in the watery bowels of a sinking 'unsinkable ship.'" In retrospect, those were prophetic words.
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