HST & Friends
About HST+ Who is HST?
Biographies+ E. Jean Carroll
+ William McKeen
+ P. Paul Perry
+ Peter O. Whitmer
Thompson on Thompson
Fellow collector Stanley sent me this wonderful interview from "Studio for Men", an Australian magazine that apparently is similar to GQ. This interview, part of which is relayed below, appeared in their February 1989 issue. The interview was done by a famous Australian actor, Jack Thompson, by telephone on the eve of Generation of Swine's release. It was a pretty long phone call...figure in US long distance rates (or Australian) from ten years ago, this must have been a hundred dollar phone call.
JT: You've been over here before, haven't you?
HT: Yeah. I had a good time. I really did. It was a crazy trip. I came down to make a speaking tour and suddenly found myself in the Sydney Town Hall. I've got a picture of it right across the room from me here - with organs around the stage. Then I went to Melbourne and did the same thing.
JT: You got a civic reception here?
HT: Then I went to Canberra and spoke to the National Press Club. Every place I went, the people were crazy as loons.
JT: Do you like that? Do you like people to be as crazy as loons?
HT: Well, I like to be the craziest man in the room
usually. There's great comfort in knowing that nobody else
is as crazy as you are.
HT: Let me ask you, what made you become an actor?
JT: What made me become an actor? It was the easiest thing to do.
HT: Actors have to get up really early in the morning don't they?
Yes, they do. When you're working on a movie it's like,
a 10, 12 hour day and then home. It's very monastic for a
brief period of time.
HT: I use those quotes like little jewels. I steal from other writers but at least I admit it. I hope it shows in my good taste.
JT: I'm sure. It certainly shows that you have a lot of respect and interest in your fellow writers, your fellow craftsmen.
HT: Well, we're just a very small band of brothers. Joe Conrad, Mark Twain, Sam Coleridge...oh, let me think now...Scott Fitzgerald, Hemingway. I like Hemingway, but I kind of worry about being identified with him.
JT: Why is that? Because you keep your prose refined? You know what I mean, minimal?
HT: Well, not nearly as clean as Hemingway did.
JT: No, of course, but nevertheless it's clipped isn't it? Do you think that's true of your own writing?
HT: When I do it right, it is. On the other hand I just go
the British version of Generation of Swine and one of the
things I'm in protest of, is that in the introduction
there's a paragraph about heaven and hell an they've changed
it. You know what it's like when you tell a writer how to
write? As an actor you'd get the same thing. Anyway, this
thing about heaven - they took out every piece of
punctuation in the whole goddamned paragraph.
HT:I've already lived a lot longer than I planned to. Let's see...I can't add too well but I'm 51 now, minus 27...really, I've already lived 24 years past what I really planned to live. I thought I would die at the age of 27.
HT: Well, I planned to. I worked at it.
JT: And to your surprise you survived it.
HT: No, to my horror. Well, you can imagine what happens to you when you live 24 years past your deadline.
JT: Past what you were planning for.
HT: Planning. I mean I counted on it.
JT: Does this affect your writing? Does this mean you're writing about a world that you feel that you (horrors, page cut off here)
HT: Oh...to a certain extent, yeah.
JT: So you're more a romantic than a cynic, are you not?
HT: Uh huh. Jack? I think you went straight to the point there, yes. That's a problem. That's a horror. To be a romantic and you know what people say...only the good die young. Well, where does that leave me then?
JT: And me, since I'm about the same age.
HT: How old are you Jack?
JT: I'm 48.
HT: Well we're together then.
JT: We are indeed. We've been through about the same period of time. I didn't know how long I was going to live but I certainly set out from a very young age to live as long as I possibly could.
HT: Oh Jesus! I set out from a very young age to live as short as I possibly could!
JT: Well, where did it go wrong for you Hunter? (laughs) Why are you still living? You are enjoying life, are you not?
HT: Yeah, I'm enjoying it. It's a constant...the reason I live up here in the mountains at 8,000 feet, deep in the snow and woods, is that when I go out in life it's a confrontation at all times, it's a war.
JT: I understand that. I have a farm which is home to me. I'm in town at the moment doing some work but my home, like your home, your retreat, is a little farm about 1,800 feet above sea level and about 14 miles from the coast line, 300 miles north of Sydney.
HT: That's nice, one of the really elegant places in the world. I like Australia.
JT: It's a beautiful part of the world, the east coast of Australia. So maybe when you come back here we should get together and go look out over the Pacific Ocean from one of those beaches.
HT: I'm supposed to come down and write a book about Australia.
JT: Fantastic. Would you make your book about Australia...I was going to say the same as your other books, but that's an absurd question...You would write about Australia, whatever you observed of Australia. There's a thing that I'd like to ask you...I spend quite a bit of time in America and years ago when Nixon was impeached, I thought that maybe there would be a sense in which the office of the President itself is not infallible. And I just wondered, because it's not entirely clear from your writing, I just wondered how you feel about the fallibility of the office of President.
HT: With the Watergate thing, what we took great pride in here was that it didn't really have much to do with the President himself or the office. It was more the fact that the people, and the press, actually did run the country and that we could throw out a crooked President and there was a great amount of pride in that. Not that the President was infallible but if he was...We've had some real bastards and I'm sure you have too down there. We took great pride in that we could throw him out. You know, chase the bastards out of Washington. And somehow there was a great celebration of the power of the people after Watergate. Hell, I did it myself; I was proud of all of us. And somehow that has not carried over. There was a great celebration but it was honoured more in the spirit than the reality.
JT: Don't you think that whatever forces they were that you exposed simply closed their ranks?
HT: I'm not sure they closed theirs. I think we got lazy and we congratulated ourselves - "Goddamn, weren't we (horrors, page cut off here again)
JT: Yes, and "Now what are we going to do?"
HT: More powerful. It's hard to throw a goddamned President out. Hell, I participated in throwing two of them out. Three actually, if you count Ford. What we've lost in this country now, I think, is that sense. Being able to throw them out; chase the President in the goddamned White House if he's crooked.
JT: Yes, participatory politics.
HT: Well politics is a thing that everyone can participate in. Hell, I'm a politician. I hate to say that, but in a democracy, you have to be a politician.
JT: Yes. If the democracy is working, surely everyone is involved politically.
HT: What I've been really disappointed in here is that we had the first under 50 percent voter turnout this time since 1920. Less than half of the voters care enough to vote. And that doesn't work in a democracy.