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The Proud Highway [Paperback]

Hunter S. Thompson , William J. Kennedy , Douglas Brinkley
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
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Book Description

April 7 1998
Here, for the first time, is the private and most intimate correspondence of one of America's most influential and incisive journalists--Hunter S. Thompson. In letters to a Who's Who of luminaries from Norman Mailer to Charles Kuralt, Tom Wolfe to Lyndon Johnson, William Styron to Joan Baez--not to mention his mother, the NRA, and a chain of newspaper editors--Thompson vividly catches the tenor of the times in 1960s America and channels it all through his own razor-sharp perspective. Passionate in their admiration, merciless in their scorn, and never anything less than fascinating, the dispatches of The Proud Highway offer an unprecedented and penetrating gaze into the evolution of the most outrageous raconteur/provocateur ever to assault a typewriter.

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The Proud Highway + Songs of the Doomed + Fear and Loathing in America: The Brutal Odyssey of an Outlaw Journalist
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From Amazon

This first volume of the correspondence of Hunter S. Thompson begins with a high school essay and runs up through the publication of Thompson's breakout book, Hell's Angels. Thompson apparently never threw a letter away, so the reader has the treat of experiencing the full evolution of his pyrotechnic writing style, rant by rant. The letters--to girlfriends, to bill collectors, to placers of "Help Wanted" ads, to editors and publishers--are usually spiced with political commentary. The style and the political animus always seem to drive each other. For instance, an 11/22/63 letter to novelist and friend William J. Kennedy about the day's cataclysm is apparently the birthplace of the signal phrase "fear and loathing." (Thompson summed up the Kennedy assassination thus: "The savage nuts have shattered the great myth of American decency.") And the willingness to write strangers is stunning: this collection includes Thompson's letter to LBJ seeking appointment to the governorship of American Samoa. You might have thought Garry Trudeau was exaggerating in his Doonesbury characterization of the Thompson-based character Duke. He was not. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

"I'm already the new Fitzgerald," Thompson declares gamely at age 19, in 1957, as his cracking lifelong correspondence gets under way. "I just haven't been recognized yet." The original gonzo journalist, who struck the big time with his book on the Hell's Angels ten years later (when this first volume of correspondence terminates), amply displays his talent for bragging?and barking?in these self-consciously irreverent, wordy, and often tender letters he was fond of banging out impulsively to friends like William J. Kennedy (Ironweed); magazine editors from whom he hoped to scare up work; youths who asked for career advice; Lyndon Johnson, when asking for the job of governor of American Samoa; and writers whose work he read with violent pleasure or loathing (Norman Mailer, William Styron, Nelson Algren). Thompson enjoyed messing up wherever he could but he never lost a grip on his desire to become a damn good writer. This is a shot in the liver for struggling writers and a searing testimony to an important moment in American journalism. Highly recommended.
-?Amy Boaz, "Library Journal"
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars HST at his best July 12 2004
Hunter S. Thomson came to the conclusion at a very young age that he was brilliant, and as a result made a point of saving his letters to prove it. Before Gonzo was Gonzo there was Hunter S. Thomason the lover of the written word, and this collection of letters lets you in on the adventure of an author coming of age. Like the readers of Hemmingway and Kerouac, if you are a lover of Hunter S. Thompson's writing you are more than likely a lover of Hunter S. Thompson - This book is for you. Anyone not familiar with HST will find in this book the archetypical American idealist: self reliant, self directed and uncompromising. However what makes Thompson unique is that he is able to write very, very well, and in so doing his journey is told with vibrancy and power that can only be told by a man who has done much, thought a lot, and wrote even more.
Editor Douglas Brinkley has done an outstanding job arranging Thompson's "trunk load of letters" from a mix of miscellaneous correspondences into a brilliant historical look at the history of America over latter half of twentieth century.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Start with Hell's Angels, then move here Jan. 20 2004
By CBock
Did you ever secretly read someone's diary? You knew it was wrong but you couldn't help yourself. We do it because it offers a glimpse into a part of someone's personality that we may have not known. That's essentially what these letters are. When Thompson wrote them it's unlikely he ever intended for them to be open to the public. Although at one point he does make a prophetic statement about his suspicion that people like reading his letters better than his fiction. AND he did keep carbons of everything. No matter. This is completely entertaining. It's fascinating to the see the evolution of his writing and depth of his intellect. He really grows fangs and claws along the way and uses them, usually hilariously, to rip people to shreds. He says the things that we would want to but are afraid to. No one is off limits. Unfortunately, his incredible talent as a writer is overshadowed by his reputation for consuming freakish amounts of booze and pills. Everyone loves a freak show, right? But this shows his power--what made him great. If you're a writer, you'll especially love it. One note: If you've never read any Hunter Thompson, start with his breakout book, Hell's Angels, and then move here. Not only does Proud Highway culminate with the release of that book (which erupted Thompson's fame) but it also rumbles with energy and is a heck of a lot of fun.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Important for anyone in their early 20s July 25 2003
First, a disclaimer. Yes I realize that this, the volume that follows and the as of yet unreleased third volume, are all meant for die-hard fans and not introductory reading. Some would go so far as to claim that HST is now simply pandering and stoking his own personality cult.
That being said, despite whatever suspected intentions this book came out under, it has become one of my favorite "autobiography/memior collections" (shudder) ever. Any person interested in writing, travelling or living the unorthodox lifestyles we all really want to live, should read this while they're doing it.
The collection follows Thompson from his Louisville days editing the school newspaper and getting chased around by the local cops, to up-state NY, California and Colorado, all while trying to sell his first pieces of writing to magazines and newspapers and maintaining a life halfways on the road, halfways in the strangest of circles in the 1960s. Readers get to see the frustration (and hunger) of trying to make a living on words alone, then later the joy (and drinks) that success on one's own terms can bring.
In order to put the critics' claims to rest, I would say that even if this book were someone else's letters it would still be fantastic. That is to say, HST's "image" doesn't really play any role in making this a better read, but then again if that's what you're looking for, you might do better with "Fear and Loathing".
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4.0 out of 5 stars Laugh Out Loud Funny and Thought Provoking April 24 2003
This is a collection of letters written from Hunter's Childhood up to his successful Hell's Angels book. The most interesting thing about this book is the immense difficulty he had selling his stories and the desperate poverty in which he lived for years as a struggling writer. I guess like all people I kind of thought that someone this brilliant was just embraced by literary circles, and any problems he had was because he was a drunken, drugged out, crazy freak who upset everyone who tried to help him. This was not the case.
Like many geniuses Hunter was so far ahead of everyone that he had to wait for them to catch up.
The humor is so funny that it almost impossible not to crack up on every page, even in the midst of terrible personal turmoil Hunter was one funny man.
ONE problem, I wish that there were more letters FROM the people he wrote to over the years. Some of the funniest moments were the letters he received from people over the years. More of those exchanges would have helped and made the book much more interesting. That is why it is not 5 stars. It is still worth reading. Especially if you want to be a writer.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Passionate prose Oct. 29 2001
By MrMusto
This is going to be a very bold statement - as well as perhaps the highest compliment one can behold on a book - but here it goes: This book (The Proud Highway... by HST), changed my life. You can quote me on that. Here's why:
There is such vigor and zest in Thompson's writing that you can't help but get caught up in his escapades and shenanigans. From a very early age (the book starts when he was 17), you can see the notorious gonzo journalist beginning to form. One thing that surprised me is how meticulous and serious he takes his writing (perhaps because he realized he had nothing else). He is very confident about his future and practically clairvoyant when he stated that he planned to publish a collection of his letters - almost 40 years before this book come out.

I only have a few qualms (if you can call them that) with this book, but only because nobody is perfect, even the great Mr Gonzo. No. 1: Since HST occasional gets caught up in the moment when he is composing on his typewriter, it makes me wonder if some things are truth or just Thompson's strange breed of fiction. No. 2: Even though Thompson wrote many letters, this disjointed collection doesnt exactly add up to a autobiography. Some times you find stories overlapping and sometimes you just wonder what the hell he is talking about (even after you read the footnotes). Nonetheless, I still find anything this man writes intriguing, due to his magnificant warping of the English language.

As for how it changed my life, the reason has to do with advice he gives in one of his letters. He states something to the effect of: Dont set goals for yourself or follow other people. Decide the way you want to live your life and then go do it - and dont let anybody get in your way.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply awesome!
This is a must for every wannabe author. This is not simply for the diehard HST fan. The author speaks to everybody but for those born before 1964 it is particularly poignant, a... Read more
Published on May 10 2004 by Bruce Oksol
5.0 out of 5 stars Good book
These are letters of Hunter S. Thompson. They range from letters to publishers to letters to his land lord. Great for the Thompson fanatic.
Published on Aug. 15 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars HST with hair!
I had picked up an interest in the inimitable Doctor of Journalism & his gonzo styling from reading on the filmic "Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas", & then seeing the film, & finally... Read more
Published on Feb. 24 2003 by "montythemongoose"
1.0 out of 5 stars Endless Highway
As much as I love reading the good Dr's. books, and as much as it pains me to write this, it must be said that this book is an ill conceived collection of personal letters meant to... Read more
Published on Feb. 17 2002 by J. Thomas
4.0 out of 5 stars The roots of Gonzo
This is really an interesting way to view someone who has been viewed mostly as a drug abusing maniac by the general public, and as a drug abusing revolutionary journalist by the... Read more
Published on Nov. 28 2001
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth the Effort....
If you've never read any of Thompson's works, I recommend you *not* start with this one. Buy a used copy of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (it's a relatively short book), read it... Read more
Published on July 2 2001 by CMOS
4.0 out of 5 stars high quality gonzo
I just got into Hunter S. Thompson, and after reading this book, I don't think I'll ever get out. This guy is amazing. Read more
Published on Jan. 29 2001 by Casey F.
5.0 out of 5 stars Savage, Vicious Prose
I am a lover of language, an aspiring writer, yet this book has changed me in a way that remains unsurpassed in my personal history. Read more
Published on Nov. 15 2000 by Hugh S. Moore
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