Mailer, Thompson and Wolfe

I have a Non-Fiction class where we read selections from novels and short stories. This week we read exerpts from Norman Mailers “The Armies of the Night“, Hunter S. Thompsons “The Scum Also Rises”, and Tom Wolfes “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.” Here is my journal:

This week I was exposed to writers I had heard about but never read. I have found myself becoming more and more inspired by the words.

I sat down to read Norman Mailer’s The Armies of the Night and found myself writing instead. These stories seem to take longer and longer to get through because of the inspiration I get when I read them.

Mailer as a character almost seemed like a teenager. His self-conscious tendencies came out and showed a side of him I wasn’t expecting. “Lowell’s card might have arrived with the best of motives, but its timing suggested to Mailer an exercise in neutralsmanship-neutralize the maximum of possible future risks.” (296). This line especially made Mailer look unsure of his own writing. This reminded me that these writers are human beings. The confident, almost overkill, of his speech or descriptions of people show that he isn’t as confident as we might have believed. Lowell tries to give him a compliment and he makes a quip that would force Lowell to proclaim his admiration for him. I almost didn’t notice the politics of this piece because of the underlying tone Mailer gives.

Hunter S. Thompson was a little more difficult for me. The first couple pages did not grasp my attention, and I found the piece a little dry. This was until he ‘showed’ Nixon and Ziegler at the beach. This was a perfect moment in the story, whether it was real or not. I have seen, heard, read a lot about Nixon and the Watergate scandal and this scene made me believe it. Nixon seems like a child, standing on a beach, rolled up pants, letting the calming rush of the water soaking into him. Then hoping, wishing, assuming everything would go right. His naivety is very believable and you almost feel bad for him, until he speaks. Then you remember everything he has done and can’t even imagine how he could think he was safe. Thompson shows and describes people as he honestly feels they should be described. This is a beautiful quality in his writing. He doesn’t feel bad that he is calling someone a “genuine dingbat with barely enough sense to tie his own shoes.” (310). Thompson writes for himself and doesn’t let feelings get into the way of what honestly happens. That is a quality I admire and hope to achieve.

The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test helped show me what acid would be like without actually having to do acid. The perfect compromise. When I first started the story I didn’t realize that these people are artists. They don’t just do lots of drugs, they experiment with the technology and inspiration they have, The way they rigged the bus was brilliant and made the trip seem really exciting. Tom Wolfe would have had a crazy experience running around with people on acid. The way they were dressed, made up and acting in public made the story more centered. I liked the way that Wolfe showed the public as well. This helped to give perspective on the events. It showed you a straight-laced society in relation to what they were doing. It was kind of a yes; this is not normal, feeling. That really broke you out of the normalness of the drugs while you were still ‘on the bus.’ “The citizens were suitably startled, outraged, delighted, nonplused, and would wheel around and stare or else try to keep their cool by sliding glances like they weren’t going to be impressed by any weird shit-and a few smiled in a frank way as if to say, I am with you-if only I could be with you!” (176).   This almost utopia exposes you to a different world that you can only experience at certain times, almost like a wormhole.  I am glad this was recorded and am interested in reading the whole book.



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Categories: Books, Writer


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