Screwjack Hysteria

You can find this line in Hunter S. Thompson’s Screwjack: “We live in a jungle of pending disasters.” There you have it. Hunter S. Thompson in one sentence — the journalistic earnestness encroached upon by a drug-induced paranoia so fraught with anxiety that it turns inside out and becomes hilarious. “Will my plane crash tomorrow? What if I miss it? Will the next one crash?” And on and on. The master of the “hysterical” voice, because his prose is fully hysterical in both senses — expressing an unhinged reaction to the circumstantial detail around him, and eliciting robust laughter from the reader. He reconciles the irreconcilable, those two zones of hysteria’s meaning, the serious psychoanalytic condition and the comical delight. I’m just never quite sure if I’m laughing with or at the deranged voice coming off the page.

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13 thoughts on “Screwjack Hysteria

    • The first time I read “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” I felt mainly dread, probably because my lifestyle was close to the cliff that the characters were always about to fall off. Ten years later, I read it and laughed out loud throughout, probably because my lifestyle had become … well, more boring.

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    • Isn’t that an old hippie-era song, Chris? I can’t remember. I know I enjoy watching Hunter S. Thompson tiptoe the ledge, but I would not want to meet him there. I admire him as a writer but can’t say I’d trust him up close and on a ledge.

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