The Joke’s Over: Bruised Memories: Gonzo, Hunter S. Thompson and Me – Ralph Steadman

For some reason I cannot fathom, Ralph Steadman‘s recent memoir is called The Joke’s Over: Bruised Memories: Gonzo, Hunter S. Thompson and Me in the States and The Joke’s Over: Memories of Hunter S. Thompson over here. Is the longer title too convoluted for us lot? Well, certainly not for me. I picked my copy up in the states. It also has a cooler cover. Different markets, I know, but it makes no sense to me really. In 1970 cartoonist Steadman was sent to cover the Kentucky Derby for Scanlan’s Monthly. The text was to be provided by HST. As the title would suggest, this is the memoir of their relationship up to Thompson’s funeral in 2005.

There are large chunks of this volume that are made up of correspondence between the two. Entertaining and insightful (and indeed touching and hilarious at turns) as these can be, anyone who has submerged themselves in either of the two published volumes of letters will know, it can get pretty wearing after a time. OK, living on other contents from each other, there were huge swathes of time where it was their only form of contact.

A little more analysis on the part of Steadman wouldn’t have gone amiss either. Not necessarily into what drove his highly erratic often completely psychotic friend, but in how he managed to put up with that behavior even from across the Atlantic. Oh, he paints a picture of the charismatic charmer one would expect. As soon as he bursts through a door brandishing a gun or a bottle or both, there can’t be a dull moment. I suspect that every person that reads this book would give anything to be sailing up to an Americas Cup yacht late at night with a diabolical plan to spraypaint fuck the pope along the side. and, most importantly, we feel not only his loss, but anger at the sonofabitch for having “finally gone and done it”.

Of course, in addition to a whole swathe of new photographs, there are illustrations galore (some never published before) from Steadman’s various collaborations with and excisions (exorcisms?) of HST. Genius stuff. In fact it probably becomes apparent what the main difference between the two men was. HST always seems to be the optimist. He did believe in a better world; ranting and raving against the misjustices. Trying to make the world better, while pissing in the wind. Steadman is more pragmatic; a realist. He see’s the world as it is. In all it’s twisted and savage glory. Holding a mirror to the black, black heart of mankind.


Written by Tony Kiernan

11 April 2007 at 5:01 pm

Posted in Books

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