What does GONZO mean to me?
The definition, according to Merriam-Webster & the Free Dictionary:
NORTH AMERICANof or associated with journalistic writing of an exaggerated, subjective, and fictionalized style.
bizarre or crazy: “the woman was either gonzo or stoned”synonyms: mad · insane · out of one’s mind · deranged · demented · not in one’s right mind · crazed · lunatic · non-compos mentis · unbalanced · unhinged
2. Extreme, unconventional, or bizarre: gonzo artwork; a gonzo snowboarding style.
3. Crazy, excited, or unrestrained: Fans went gonzo when the band came out.
The definition – according to the dictionary – is simple, specific & not hard to comprehend. It’s not like, say, Nietzsche’s essays on the Greman population’s effects on culture.
However, for me, the word represents a complex philosophy of life. Not just “demented” or “unhinged”. It is a form by which to live by. Controversial? Sure. It really is. And as weird & unconventional as it is, it is something I identify with.
A form of surrealistic, accurate, blown-out-of-proportion perceptions on life & environment, politics, writing & reportage… a little bit of fictional spice in a recipe of what is in front of you.
1971 was the year GONZO appeared in a dictionary. Of course, things have been GONZO for a lot longer than that. Mark Twain, Norman Mailer, and Truman Capote – all of them were using the technique…
Hell, even Theodore Dreiser experimented with concepts of breeding fiction with reality in his 1925 novel, An American Tragedy – that famous, long work based on the murder of Grace Brown (1886-1906). A depressing story with the elements of human horrors which, not surprisingly, was turned into a literary masterpiece.
Years later, Truman Capote produced his most accomplished work, In Cold Blood (published January 17, 1966) on the 1959 murder of Holcomb, Kansas farmer, Herbert Clutter, & his family.
Capote called it the “Non-fiction Novel.”
Norman Mailer continued this new & exciting avenue into literature with his mega, 1979 Pulitzer Prize-winning true-crime work, The Executioner’s Song. Once again, fiction mingles with fact. Gonzo & a Gonzo lifestyle throws all the extraordinary “possibilities” & “assumptions” with hardcore facts. On more than one occasion I have been told stories about myself that are nothing more than exaggerations. And, for a long time, I perpetuated it, entertained it, wrote about it… it was controlled chaos, bred from ONE simple fact.
But that is not what Gonzo means to me. For me, Gonzo means family – a gathering of diverse people, some of them acting a little more outrageous than others; some of them not outrageous at all. And all of it was fine-tuned & defined by one Dr. Hunter S. Thompson.
Because of Dr. Thompson & his powerful writing, activism, political insight & contribution to controversy, I’m honored to have people in my life I never would have had the pleasure to communicate with. There is also the courage he inspired in me to not be perfect… to embrace what it is I long desired to do ever since I read Hemingway – to write. To get the music down with the words!
“Tis strange – but truth is always strange; stranger than fiction, if it could be told…”
That Romantic, limey bastard George Gordon Byron wrote that in 1823… I wonder, though, did he ever consider what hybrid-livestock would emerge breeding the two?
Well, I guess that question has been answered. Some pretty good writing has been born from it. A lifestyle philosophy has been born from it. And I am happy & proud to be a part of it; no matter how small my part of it may be, it’s true to who & what I want to be, accomplish, & dedicate myself to.