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From Anita Thompson:
Reading the LA times review of Jann Wenner's book made me realize I need to communicate in more specific terms. The reviewer was too sloppy to understand that Jann never forgave Hunter for leaving Rolling Stone. Jann convinced nearly all of Hunter's friends to participate in what would be a "positive" book about Hunter. Then, using a cheap parlor trick, Jann excerpted and paraphrased the negative bits of interviews to weave a tall tale to trash Hunter.
Hunter wrote more in the last 5 years of his life than he had in the previous 15, along with fighting and winning a beautiful legal battle for Lisl Auman. Hunter believed in the triumph of the human spirit. John Nichols from the Nation has said, and I agree, that some of Hunter's most savage and inspiring political writing, was in his ESPN columns during the last years of his life. Yes, they were short, insightful and funny. He inspired thousands of sports lovers to get involved with politics. Simple.
What the L.A. Times reviewer fails to notice is that in addition to Hunter "using" people around him, the truth is that Hunter was surrounded, much of his life, by leeches (many of those leeches grace the pages of the book). It doesn't take a rocket scientist to recognize that many people did TAKE, TAKE, TAKE from Hunter and gave very little in return. While sitting at his typewriter, Hunter helped many people, especially Jann, make a lot of money. Today is no exception.
Here is the letter that I wrote to Jann in May, after receiving the manuscript. I had to tell him the book was a FRAUD, and that I would not write a forward or include an interview -- which was SCARY, because I felt very much alone. Despite his withering status, Jann is considered "rich and powerful," and I was warned by friends that he would go after me if I refused to be in the book. Jann offered me a lot of money and ad space in his magazine to include my interview and forward, and implied threats if I didn't. In the end, however, the best people to defend Hunter are his readers.
In my refrigerator I have a jar of mayonnaise, two tangerines, 1/2 carton of soy milk and a few boxes of dried spaghetti. And I also have an overdrawn bank account, $43 in my wallet, and no car. So, I really, REALLY could use that money! But I need to let you know that I'm sticking with my original decision I made many months ago - that I can not be a part of [your book] in any shape or form. I hope you understand. If readers believe that the bits and pieces of interviews you weaved together tell an accurate story, there is nothing I could possibly write in a 500 word forward to sway them. Defending him in a forward would be futile. So, I'm out. And yes, let's part ways.
Rolling Stone [and especially US Weekly] is such a huge success financially... You have accumulated a mass amount of power and wealth over the last 40 years -- Why do you have to use it against Hunter? It would have been so beautiful if you would have used that power to compile, into a book, a bunch of humiliating personal interviews about someone like Paul Wolfowitz, Cheney, Rice, or Rumsfeld or Armitage or Even Bush. Why Hunter? You walked around at both memorial services in a constant state of tears and made people trust you to sit down and do interviews with Corey. I know you and Hunter had some problems over the years... [but] I don't understand the level of venom employed here. Why?
You couldn't deny the fact that yes, as soon as he left Rolling Stone, you portray him as an awful beast of a man. But you also couldn't deny the fact that all these people loved him dearly "all the way to the end". The reason peopled loved him is because he is one of the rare human beings who is essentially decent, with moments of rotten behavior.
I wish I could appeal to your sense of decency and that you would burn this awful manuscript. It would be the right thing to do. I realize you're probably laughing at me to even suggest it. Oh Well.
One of my first nights working with Hunter on a project here in the kitchen was in 1999 on the second letters book. I wrote about it in one of the essay portions of my 3 hour Columbia entrance exam. On this night, there were several letters to [and from] you up for consideration...Many people lobbied to include those nasty ones. Hunter humored them for a while. But he wouldn't run them in the end.
THAT is why "people loved Hunter all the way to the end." Because no matter how vicious he could be, he was essentially decent in a huge way. And when he did attack people, it was only those who were in a position to defend themselves.
Anyway, I know I've pissed you off and it's probably not the best strategy for me to make an enemy of you. But I love Hunter, and hate to see his friend bash him to pieces... and hope to god that you just go with your heart and reconsider this whole project. If you want to publish embarrassing interviews about me, so be it. I've learned to deflect cheap shots. Just lay off Hunter, he's dead. Won't you???
Regardless, I wish you some peace and forgiveness in your life.
(May 23, 2007)
p.s. for those of you worried about Johnny Depp, although I haven't spoken to him in a long time, we'll give him the benefit of the doubt that he just trusted Wenner, like everybody else when he allowed the reprint of his "forward."
regarding "oral biography" about Hunter S. Thompson
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Rolling Stone editor slays king of Gonzo
By Charles Memminger
Honolulu Star-Bulletin Jan. 24, 2008
Knowing I had met and interviewed one of my favorite authors, Hunter S. Thompson, at the Kahala Mandarin in 2002, three years before he killed himself, my daughter Sarah gave me for Christmas a new book out on the great man. I sent this e-mail to her at college in Oregon:
I finished "Gonzo," the "oral history" hatchet job on Hunter Thompson that apparently all of his ex-wives, girlfriends and anyone else he ever p--ed off decided to publish. What a brutal tome. Man, this was like the entire Roman senate turning on Julius Caesar.
Et tu, Jann Wenner? Wenner is the publisher of Rolling Stone magazine who masterminded this posthumous character assassination. He also encouraged Hunter's extreme behavior in return for putting Rolling Stone on the political and pop-culture map. Wenner whined all the way to the circulation bank about how hard it was to get Hunter to finish a story, but then would drop acid with him at Hunter's Colorado compound and basically attach himself like a rented remora to Hunter so he could bask in the residual glory and coolness that surrounded the country's King of Weird.
Wenner wrung the last bit of creative juice out of Hunter, finally discarding him like a used grapefruit, leaving him a pathetic, drunken, drug-addled, hobbled (and essentially impoverished) shell. Probably to protect his literary legacy from further degenerating into parody and pathos, Hunter took the .45-caliber express to Shambhala. And how lucky for Wenner. Wenner had a winner of an ending for his alleged biography of Hunter.
With all the whining Wenner did about how hard it was to get Hunter to finish a writing project, it's ironic -- nauseating, really -- that Wenner didn't take the time to actually write this book himself. Like one of those annoying wedding videographers roaming around gathering reflections from guests on the happy couple for posterity, Wenner passed around a tape recorder to a chilling rabble of Hunter's ex-wives, bed partners, political hired guns and celebrities, and allowed them to gnaw and tear chunks from Hunter's carefully crafted public persona. The result of Wenner's cashing in, postmortem, on Hunter's talent?
"Gonzo" is autopsy-by-bacchanalia, pitifully masquerading as objective, historic truth. The few contributors to this heartless enterprise to come off well are Jack Nicholson, Jimmy Buffett, Johnny Depp and Hunter's amazingly resilient son, Juan. (Depp wrote the introduction, a funny, moving and brilliant homage to his close friend. Too bad it had to be published in this book.)
Wenner likely has sold the movie rights to this LIED (literary improvised explosive device) and so continues to feed on Hunter's celebrated carcass.
Little did Hunter know when the Hells Angels were kicking the cr-p out of him while he was writing the book that made him famous, that compared with what Wenner et al. has done to him in "Gonzo," the Hells Angels incident was like a big group hug.
There's an old saying: You get the biographer you deserve. But despite his notorious excesses, Hunter S. Thompson didn't deserve Jann Wenner.