Tuesday, October 5, 2010

One Writer's (Crazy) Beginnings

Part I

When I began my college career, I was placed in remedial English. The fact that I was a high school drop-out probably had something to do with this. Curiously, it was in this first college English course that I realized I wanted to be a writer. What’s more, after passing remedial English, passing the required English courses every student must take, realizing that I actually enjoyed reading (something I had selectively forgotten for quite a few years), and then deciding to major in English, I became rather fanatical about a very selective group of writers I admired.

At the time, there were two writers I idolized above all others: Maya Angelou and Hunter S. Thompson. (Both of whom I would later have some interaction with.) Hunter S. Thompson because I was a drunkard at the time, and he was pretty much the ideal role model for a drunkard; further, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas was probably the only movie I ever bothered to memorize lines from. As my roommate and I cruised for parking at the dance club we visited each night, I would look around suspiciously, say:  “Wait! We can’t stop here. This is bat country.” After that, our night could begin.

My drinking began to take its toll after a while, and although I still indulged from time to time, I was getting tired of the work one needs to put into full-time alcoholism. So, I stopped going out nightly, and I replaced all my excess time—no mornings hungover, no pre-drinking before hitting the club, no going to the bar every few songs to refuel, no going to the store every few days to replenish—with reading and writing. I knew, at the time, I was destined to become an amazing writer. (Anyone who can take something like drinking so seriously is bound to be good at any hobby that is given the equivalent time and energy, right? Simple logic.) And, if I didn’t let my latest stories (about such things as a giant killer frog taking over Ohio and a homeless man named Santa, who found a hundred dollars, and set out on a tough journey to cross the city to get to Denny's, keeping his bills, rather uncomfortably, up his ass while he faced all kinds of obstacles along the way) cool off long enough, I would’ve told you they were quite remarkable works.

So, figuring I was ready to correspond with other great minds, I contacted Mr. Hunter S. Thompson. Yes, kids, I did. I wrote him a letter, in fact, and seeing as how this was an honorary occasion, I got truly shit-faced in order to write said letter. I spent all night, writing, reading and rereading, drinking, crumpling drafts, and rewriting. In the morning, I had a letter that was… well, genius. I mailed it.

I'll tell the rest of the story later because I have a mid-term exam to put together, but here's a little clue about what happened next... He wrote me back!


  1. Congratulations on receiving a reply. I've gotten to know a lot of authors and most are very humble folk who are flattered that anyone reads their writings. Did you read Kerouac? Good luck on your exam.

  2. Thank you! I get to give the exam, so I should do well :) I've read Kerouac, yes, and he too was very influential early on in my writing career. I've actually been thinking about rereading some of the authors who piqued my interest, to see what I think of their works now, ten years later, after studying the craft for so long and reading so, so many books in the meantime. HST was a lyrically remarkable writer. And his literary education was largely self-taught, which I respect to no end.

  3. I look forward to reading the next installment. Did you get drunk to read the letter?

  4. What an intriguing person you are. I look forward to getting to know you. Keep up the writing.

  5. Holy cow. I really, really want to read the rest of this story! I've always wanted to be in correspondance with an author or other supremely successful person, but have chickened out of writing every time (I ducked out of sight when my chance to shake hands with Jon Bon Jovi came. Boo). Please, post the rest soon!

    Also: "Anyone who can take something like drinking so seriously is bound to be good at any hobby that is given the equivalent time and energy, right? Simple logic."
    Awesome line :)

  6. I love it! Candor and great writing is always such a refreshing combination. I can also relate as I did the same thing but with Augusten Burroughs. (And if you know of him, you know the irony of writing to him whilst imbibing.) Visiting from Hump Day Hop and now following. All the best!

  7. I suppose you did good on that test, didn't you! I was thinking it was pretty neat that a college student had published a memoir, which I do plan to read. It sounds very good. I've only read Fear and Loathing In LV by HT... Kerouac was more an influence on me--I first read On the Road while hiking the Appalachian Trail. I also liked Dharma Bums and Tom Clark's bio of him.

  8. Oh, I'd love to see what he said. Good luck on the test!


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