Thursday, November 17, 2016

"The Sum of His Many Squalid Parts"

The recent political situation got me thinking about Thompson's masterpiece, Fear and Loathing: on the Campaign Trail '72, which led to remember my favorite bit of Thompson marginalia, the obituary he wrote for Rolling Stone on the occasion of Nixon's death.  For those who aren't fans of Thompson's work, it should be pointed out that Thompson hated Nixon.  I mean really hated the man, on an intensely personal and sincere level.  The last line of the obituary reads:

"By disgracing and degrading the Presidency of the United States, by fleeing the White House like a diseased cur, Richard Nixon broke the heart of the American Dream."

And "diseased cur" may be one of the nicest things Thompson calls him.  But besides the catharsis I find in this obituary, there's one moment that struck me as particularly relevant today.

"Some people will say that words like scum and rotten are wrong for Objective Journalism -- which is true, but they miss the point. It was the built-in blind spots of the Objective rules and dogma that allowed Nixon to slither into the White House in the first place...You had to get Subjective to see Nixon clearly, and the shock of recognition was often painful."

Of course, one of the main problems today isn't objective journalism, rather the surge of pseudo-journalists and pundits.  But the fact remains that the actual journalists, the ones that still put in the work and respect the responsibility that a free society demands of the press, dropped the ball, 

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Vonnegut's Last (Published) Story

Since Vonnegut's death in 2007, four volumes of unpublished work have been released, three of which are primarily or exclusively comprised of short stories.  Fans of Vonnegut know that his last published short story appeared in 1972 in the second installment of Harlan Ellison's genre-defining Dangerous Visions anthology series.  In his introduction to "The Big Space Fuck," Ellison claimed that it might be the last piece of fiction anyone would ever get from Vonnegut.  At the time, Vonnegut was working on Breakfast of Champions, but claimed he was abandoning the project. Many reviewers and fans took Breakfast of Champions, published in 1973, as Vonnegut's declaration of retirement.  While fans of Vonnegut know that he published seven more novels, and plenty of non-fiction, they also know that he never published another short story during his lifetime.

Except for "Merlin."

It was published in 1996, and appeared exclusively on the label of a specialty beer in Denver.  (Making Chipotle's cups a couple decades late to the party.)  This wouldn't be worth remarking on if it weren't for the fact that this was the only short story Vonnegut published for the last thirty-five years of his life.  The best background on the beer (called Kurt's Mile High Malt) comes from sports columnist Woody Paige's obituary of Vonnegut for the Denver Post.  The recipe is Vonnegut's grandfather's from before prohibition.  And while it seems the beer is being brewed again, there's no indication that new bottles/cans include the story.

As with the few other blog posts I've found about "Merlin," I'll end by requesting that anyone out there with the text of the story please send me a copy (or tell me where to find it).