Blogging the Bookshelf

Blogging my bookshelf – one book at a time

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"Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72", Hunter S Thompson

May 23rd, 2009 · No Comments · Politics

Fear and Loathing on the Campaign TrailSynopsis: Hunter S Thompson brings his gonzo eye and poison pen to the 1972 Presidential Election. The future of America is feared and Nixon is loathed.

My Take: Whatever the reliability of his reportage (and like any good gonzo piece, the boundaries between fact and fiction are very hard to discern in this book) Hunter S Thompson’s rhetoric bubbles like acid on society’s decorous facade. Originally serialised for Rolling Stone as the ’72 campaign unfolded, the book is a collection of both zinging and rambling first person accounts of the campaign trail.

Reading with the benefit of hindsight, Thompson’s perverse perspective and his estrangement from political recieved wisdom seem perfectly appropriate for a campaign in which George McGovern beat out Ed Muskie and Hubert Humphrey for the Democratic nomination, lost Thomas Eagleton to an Electro-shock therapy  ‘scandal’ almost immediately after selection and was then obliterated by a Nixon campaign that won all but one state (including McGovern’s home state of South Dakota).

While there is an element of perverse fascination in watching a nadir of progressive political campaigning unfold, the highlight of this book is Thompson’s real and imagined encounters with Richard Nixon. Nixon acts as a muse for Thompson to express hatred in its purest form and as a result, the bile comes thick and fast.  Thompson’s writing is far from that of the cliche outraged lefty however, and in the vein of PJ O’Rourke the wit and extremism of his missive makes for fantastic reading.


Nixon was “a monument to all the rancid genes and broken chromosomes that corrupt the possibilities of the American Dream; he was a foul caricature of himself, a man with no soul, no inner convictions, with the integrity of a hyena and the style of a poison toad.

The Nixon I remembered was absolutely humorless; I couldn’t imagine him laughing at anything except maybe a paraplegic who wanted to vote Democratic but couldn’t quite reach the lever on the voting machine.”


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