July 18 is the birthday of the man who single-handedly kept Wild Turkey whiskey in business from the 1960's onward, Dr. Gonzo himself, Hunter S. Thompson. The creator of "gonzo" journalism - a subjective journalistic style where the reporter is part of the story he/she is reporting on - HST was most famous for his first-hand account of the Hell's Angels motorcycle gang and his coverage of the Mint 400 race in the desert just outside Las Vegas, which became the setting for his best known work, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Of course, the book is less about the race itself and more about the constant drug intake and reflections on American counterculture, but now we're just splitting hairs. Unfortunately, Dr. Gonzo killed himself back in 2006 in his home in Woody Creek, CO. Four days before he died he wrote a suicide note titled, "Football Season is Over," which, morbid as it sounds, is one of my favorite things he ever wrote: "No More Games. No More Bombs. No More Walking. No More Fun. No More Swimming. 67. That is 17 years past 50. 17 more than I needed or wanted. Boring. I am always bitchy. No Fun — for anybody. 67. You are getting Greedy. Act your old age. Relax — This won't hurt."
Speaking of influential American writers who have killed themselves with a shotgun, July 21 is the birthday of the grandfather of "modern decadence," Ernest "Papa" Hemingway. In 1964, Hunter S. Thompson visited Ketchum, ID - where Hemingway shot himself - and wrote the essay, "What Lured Hemingway to Ketchum" about the months leading up to Hemingway's death. Thompson was a big fan of Hemingway (he used to type out Hemingway's novels on his typewriter, word for word, just because he "[liked] to get the feel of how it is to write those words"), and in his essay he makes a sort of odd premonition about his own future: "He was an old, sick, and very troubled man, and the illusion of peace and contentment was not enough for him—not even when his friends came up from Cuba and played bullfight with him in the Tram. So finally, and for what he must have thought the best of reasons, he ended it with a shotgun."
On a lighter birthday note, June 21 is also the birthday of Tess Gallagher, poet, teacher and wife of the late Raymond Carver. Back in the Spring of 1989, HFR published two of Carver's previously unpublished poems and an introduction by Gallagher. Two years later, in issue 9, we published three of her poems (one of which is available online). Then, ten years later, we published 6 stories transcribed by Gallagher from an Irish painter named Josie Gray, who originally spoke the stories "with the same passion some men court beautiful women or bet on horses."
Just incase you haven't gotten enough "death" for your day, check out Conjunctions issue 51, titled "The Death Issue." It's definitely a good one. Featuring work from big names like Tom Robbins, Joyce Carol Oates and John Ashbery, I'm pretty sure you can get your fix plus some. Check out Conjunctions online, where you can read through the archives and subscribe to future issues.