Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Isolation Day 33: Man or AstroMan?!

Mr. Brown sent me this link a few days ago, but I've only just got around to watching it. This went up six years ago, which is probably around the last time I saw Astroman live, at the Echo in LaLaLand. It'd been years before that since I'd seen them play live. Astroman was one of the staples of artists I saw on what feels like a regular basis in the late 90s, thanks to Mr. Brown's excellent taste in curating live shows. I guess that era has been on my mind, because two nights ago I broke out some Reverend Horton Heat - who I don't listen to nearly enough these days, and who was also a staple live show back when we'd frequent Chicago's Double Door, Empty Bottle, Lounge Axe, Metro, etc. Anyway, great set from a great band. KEXP: You fight the greatest fight! Thank you for all these wonderful live sessions; you are the John Peel of the PACNW.



I blew through Charles Stross' Atrocity Archives in a matter of days. Now I'm tucked into Juan F. Thompson's memoir Stories I Tell Myself, about growing up with Hunter S. Thompson as his father. Great book, but much like Will Bingley and Anthony Hope Smith's Gonzo: A Graphic Biography of Hunter S. Thomspon, or rather Alan Rinzler's forward to that book, Juan Thompson's book doesn't always paint his father in the best light.

Not that it's trash-talking. No, JFT very obviously loved and looked up to his father. And to be clear: Obviously we are all multi-faceted organisms, with ups and downs, lights and darks, successes and failures. But seeing the first-hand ugliness of someone I consider a literary inspiration is tough. This is especially true as, after my recent viewing of Terry Gilliam's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas film adaptation, I am further possessed of an idea that first began setting in back about fifteen years ago - the fact that maybe Hunter S. Thompson wasn't a very good person at all. Does that matter? Was Burroughs a 'good' person? Martin Amis? DOES IT MATTER?

Well, yes. A bit.

The first time I had this sense that maybe Hunter S. Thompson was kind of a fucked up person who did things that weren't very cool was the opening chapter of the Literary Greatest Hits Songs of the Doomed. 'Let the Trails Begin' tells the story of Thompson's late night arrival at a library, and his manipulations of the poor sod working there border on the actions of a narcissistic sociopath. Even if that poor sod was a criminal and a plagiarist. Then again, in re-reading Let the Trials... this morning while penning this, it occurs to me, is any of this supposed to be taken at face value? That's the the thing with Gonzo as an aesthetic/mission statement/lifestyle choice: to what extent are we supposed to take what's written at face value? There's metaphor, prose, fact, all manner of lingual possibilities, but truly, all of this may have happened and none of it may have happened. The entire scenario is so outlandish it seems impossible. Then again, a lot of what HST is known for exists in a fringe-state of mutated factoid observation. What do we do with that? I've always taken the man's work in at the gut - kind of an amalgam of the heart and the brain - but that leaves the rational, box-checking part of me hesitant in discussing the actualities of all this.

Certainly JFT's memoir of the late night, intoxicated fights and psychological bullying sessions his mother and father put on during his childhood and early adolescence are harrowing to insert into my understanding of someone whose writing makes me infinitely happy, so there's a bit of cognitive dissonance that needs sorting out as I read this. That said, as I'm sure the man himself would appreciate, the truth is the truth, but ultimately the truth may not need interfere with the work.

Or is that also the problem with our current moment? Alternative facts? No, Thompson didn't traffic in that. Neither does his son. Both are worth reading.

Dipping back into the world of HST is long overdue and absolutely wonderful. Like Irvine Welsh, HST is one of my all-time favorite writers, one I purposely do not read much of anymore, as both author's tones influence my own writing in a way that doesn't quit gel with what I have been working on for the last seven years or so (genre). That said, what I am working on at the moment, during the COVID ordeal and this long moment of isolation is actually something I originally penned in 2007/8, back when I was still reading both Thompson and Welsh on a daily basis, so picking up JFT's book might have seemed a tangent at first, but now stands revealed as, well, perfect.



TV On the Radio - Dear Science
Code Orange - Underneath
Drab Majesty - Careless
White Lung - Paradise
Paramore - Riot
Paramore - All We Know Is Falling
Brand New - God and the Devil Are Raging Inside Me
Arthur Albes - Gold
NIN - Ghosts V: Together
Soundgarden - Badmotorfinger
Disclosure - Ecstasy EP
Sofi Tukker - Treehouse


Opening up good things and finding more good things inside of them.

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