Book #6: Better Than Sex

There are moments of dizzying frenzy, when the world spins off its axis.  The extremes of the weather mess with your inner ear, and you need the rigorous bark of your machine gun-toting, alcohol-drenched, drug-addled journalistic watch dog to steel you against the fiends that prick you with their venomous barbs.

Enter the Doctor.

The feverish sense of authority that colors all of Hunter S. Thompson's writing is no more apparent that when he turns his pen to politics.  Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas gets the most attention, but it's his massive collection of articles, travelogues, and musings under the multi-volume umbrella that is the Gonzo Letters where his genius really shines.  Loosely considered volume 4 of the series, Better Than Sex: Confessions of a Political Junkie holds together as a more cohesive collection than some of his previous offerings - the primary focus is on the 2000 election between George Bush, Bill Clinton, and Ross Perot.  But like any Thompson book, the focus is just the framework for his wild excursions into journalistic fantasy, whether it's doctoring a lunch interview with Clinton where he almost murders Thompson over a plate of French Fries, or late night communications with Ed Turner of CNN over the growing fears inherent in a Perot presidency.

The format for Better Than Sex feels like a messy folder - besides the copious amount of pictures and the normal text there are photocopies of letters, faxes, notebooks and random scrawls.  A neat and tidy timeline of events is provided on most of the pages so that the lunacy can be put into its proper context.  For people new to Thompson, or who may only know him through Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Better Than Sex with its more recent period of events might prove a good introduction to what is more "typical" Hunter S. Thompson material (although I would recommend The Great Shark Hunt).  The most recent paperback version also includes a meditation on the death of Richard Nixon, Thompson's political nemesis for much of his professional writing career (not to keep touting the man's stuff, but check out the excellent Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail, which is basically Better Than Sex during the Nixon campaign).

Hunter S. Thompson is one of my favorite writers I can't devour all at once.  He's there for me when fever dreams turn sour, and the media just needs a short sharp slap to the head.  Better Than Sex did that for me.  Maybe it'll do the same to you.