Hell's Angels - HST

July 27, 2005 01:00 by keithkaragan

In memory of HST's passing I've been wanting to read some material of his that I hadn't read (or don't remember reading) so I picked up a copy of Hell's Angels. A few things became clear in the process of reading this book:

  • HST was an enigma that changed the definition of an American writer for me, there isn't another like him. Anyone coming close is merely influenced and no matter how hard they try they can't be that pioneer into the ether of what he managed to capture in his forays.
  • I wonder if HST had been born in the 60's or 70's what form this unique persona's energy would have manifested into. I don't know that in the late 20th or early 21st century the true grit of his writing would have had the influence it had at the time of it's incarnation. He was definitely in the right place at the right time - regardless great things would have to come from him, but journalism is such a ethical void these days that I doubt the same impact would be possible.
  • The Hell's Angels archetype that is depicted in the book in the mid 1960's was the fore shadowing of the dehumanization of a social class that today is yet more dehumanized and decentralized from mainly a single ethnicity to a more multi-cultural stew of people with even less piss and vinegar to muster into a defiant rage against the establishment. The blueprint HST lays as the evolution of the Angels' composite heritage was a great insight for me, one that never occurred to me before. While the specific actions of the Angels can be seen as horrific and criminal, the underlying theme of their rage is easy to identify with and it imparts an empathy of sorts to them, like the cowboy riding into the sunset - it's easy to ignore the piles of dead Indians in their wake.It really is a near perfect tale - it's naughty, it makes you disgusted, yet you have feelings for the characters and feel their pain as they drive themselves to obsolescence.
  • Its clear that HST really rode that bike, and he got the buzz of what's so alluring about motorcycling. The closing passages of the book describe the visceral surge that occurs and the thrill of the ride. Pure poetry.
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