Saturday, May 28, 2011

Hey Rube

I've only read one other book by legendary Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson, and that's Hell's Angels. It was a fascinating inside look at the notorious biker gang. My only other connection to Thompson is Terry Gilliam's adaptation of Fear and Loathing in Los Vegas, which for the most part I found a chore to sit through but admired a lot of the craft and performances that went into it.

Hey Rube (2004) isn't so much a book as it is a collection of essays and columns Thompson wrote for ESPN.com from November 2000 to October 2003 and assembled into one package. There's no overarching narrative to connect the entries. Most consist of Thompson's musings on the 2000 Presidential election, September 11, government, the media, and any other topic that catches his interest or ire but mostly gambling and football.

Now, I played a little football in high, middle and even elementary school, and by the time I got out of it, I counted the experience as the most miserable in my life. Something about out-of-shape, overweight middle-aged men screaming at me to hustle and go along with stupid chants and cheers while sermonizing without any irony I would look back on those years as the best in my life irked me. The mystery is why I put with it for so long.

I rant just illustrate how little football means to me. Sure, I'm happy when the Browns do well and occasionally watch a game on TV, but I don't follow it. Likewise, I'm not gambler and understand nothing of odds, spreads, and bets. So when I say Hey Rube did not do much to hold my interest, I hope you understand why.

There are entertaining and funny passages and entries , particularly about the 2000 Election, the short-lived XFL, and what Thompson would doto improve baseball (one way, eliminate the pitcher). But even though most entries are short, I rarely could muster the enthusiasm to read more than one or two at a time.

Thompson was clearly a good writer, but this collection feels more like inside notes for people more knowledgeable about Thompson, his work, and whatever he writes about. I'm not in that circle. So many people pop in and out of the columns, I often had no clue what he was talking about and whether any of it was factual. Thompson is known for mixing fact and fiction, but I wish he could have made it more coherent here.

Hey Rube probably would have worked better to have read it at the time these essays were written as the events described happened. Ten years after the fact, I'm lost. I imagine more devout fans of Thompson will and sports will enjoy this more.

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