AP Photo

     For those readers who, like Dr. Petruso, venerate the giants of American literature, the recent passing of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson has triggered a collective grief that can be assuaged only by ingesting prodigious quantities of mind-altering chemicals. 

      Wait a minute. Did I write that, or just think it?

      What Dr. Petruso meant to say, of course, is that our profound loss can be assuaged only by the cathartic exercise of writing. So suck it up, Rube, and write til the pain is tolerable.

      To that end, as a public service, he is pleased to announce:


     Dr. Petruso suspects you've seen those silly contests sponsored by other universities, encouraging writing in the styles of various well-known authors. Edward Bulwer-Lytton? A hyperactive popinjay whose special gift was an ability to express in a hundred words what others would in ten. Ernest Hemingway? A king-hell wuss. William Faulkner? A seething cauldron of insecurities who couldn't write his way out of freshman English. High school freshman English, that is.

     If you have read this far, Rube, Dr. Petruso has you pegged: You never felt fully alive until you read Thompson's exhilarating Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. His book on the 1972 presidential campaign clarified for you just what it was about Richard Nixon that made your flesh crawl. You never really comprehended the meaning of the word decadent until you read "A Dog Took my Place." And wardrobe malfunction? Give me a break. The reason you find the Super Bowl so repellent and yet watch it year after year goes back to your first reading of HST's "Fear and Loathing at the Super Bowl." You consider that work hands-down the greatest piece of sportswriting and ethnography in the history of the universe.

     Let's just cut to the chase, okay, Rube? Karl M. Petruso, Doctor of Archaeology, knows for whom the Banshee screams.

     It screams for thee.

     You are hereby invited to submit page 127 of Hunter S. Thompson's novel, He Who Makes a Beast of Himself (his yet-to-be-discovered manuscript chronicling some depraved adventures the two of you had a few years back). Your page will likely be a wad of over-the-top, hallucination-soaked, first-person, more-or-less journalistic narrative that will shine a relentless spotlight on some savage truths about life in our times. But that's just a guess.

     Your ersatz HST must be emailed to Dr. Petruso. One page (500 words max) will probably be about as much as he can tolerate. Entries will be posted by way of an hommage to HST on this website, so the whole world will be able to measure your gonzo quotient, if you'll pardon the expression. Oh, and one other thing: If, in the fullness of time, Dr. Petruso judges the quality of the submissions to be high enough, he will reconfigure this stupid project into a contest, and the best entries will be awarded prizes, the nature of which is yet to be determined. Perhaps he will be able to secure big endorsements from breweries, munitions dealers, drug manufacturers, disgraced former executives of Enron, or Jose Canseco. Otherwise the winners will just have to take satisfaction in the undying glory their literary achievements will confer on them within the metacommunity of losers in cyberspace.

     Submissions are subject to editing, on the assumption that drugs and alcohol have long since taken their toll on your ability to crank out a page of comprehensible, muscular, error-free English (if indeed you ever had this ability). Dr. Petruso will whip your prose into shape as necessary, at no charge. He also reserves the right to redact—or at least tone down—the obscenities with which you will probably feel obliged to lace your entry. After all, Dr. Petruso is a total professional who strives never to be any more offensive than absolutely necessary. Not to mention the fact that he listens carefully to his team of overpaid attorneys when they caution him on such matters. For this admittedly timid editorial policy, he begs your indulgence in advance.

     Your name will be withheld at your request. But Dr. Petruso knows where you live.

     Now get loaded, Rube, and start typing. The Banshee is screaming.


UPDATE: April 4, 2005

     Dr. Petruso is perplexed as to why so many of you gonzo journalist wannabes out there CANNOT BE TROUBLED TO READ THE FREAKING GUIDELINES. Are you people so drug-addled that you cannot comprehend 69 words? In 16-point red Georgia bold, no less? Can't you read instructions? Who the hell do you think you are? A bunch of tenured anarchist academics like myself who can do whatever they please?

     Of all the submissions Dr. Petruso has received to date, in precisely one (count 'em: ONE) entry has Hunter S. Thompson his ownself appeared, which is a sine qua non of this project.

     Or perhaps every man jack of you suffers from ADHD, and you just can't make it through those three sentences without losing your train of "thought." Is that it, Rube? Well, for God's sake, gobble a handful of Ritalin and focus.

     Just for fun, let us reprise the guidelines, this time in a larger point size and a more bilious color:

     You are hereby invited to submit page 127 of Hunter S. Thompson's novel, He Who Makes a Beast of Himself (his yet-to-be-discovered manuscript chronicling some depraved adventures the two of you had a few years back). Your page will likely be a wad of over-the-top, hallucination-soaked, first-person, more-or-less journalistic narrative that will shine a relentless spotlight on some savage truths about life in our times. But that's just a guess.

     And another thing. Some of your submissions appear to be old recycled diary entries containing a pinch of anemic gonzo; others describe your charmingly quirky perceptions of the world. When you inject HST into these smarmy vignettes, as you must, things will probably change, and not just a little. Ask yourself: WWHD? Would he greet you politely, pour himself a cup of herbal tea, sit back in his rocking chair with a shawl on his legs and watch Bob Ross blather in an old Joy of Painting rerun until he nods off? You bet your ass he wouldn't. Because Hunter was a professional.

     When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. Remember, Rube?

     You people make me sick. Now get to work.


UPDATE: April 19, 2005

     Okay, okay. Back off, will ya, Rube?

     Christ. It's not like I don't have anything else to do. Lectures to prepare. An article and two book reviews to get into the mail. Mewling, whining undergraduates needing advising for next semester. High-maintenance grad students suffering from thesis constipation. A pantload of brain-imploding committee responsibilities. Constant phone interruptions from panicky deans who need my sage advice on how to keep this university from coming apart at the seams.

     But I finally snatched a few minutes to post some mediocre submissions. You can find them here. More to be posted if and when I can ever get these tiresome people off my back.