Dangerously Close to the Highway with Ralph Steadman

I was reading a bit of Herzog on Herzog recently,which is part of the wonderful “directors on directors” series wherein filmmakers talk to themselves about their careers. Or rather, someone interviews the director and then stitches together a savvy retrospective of their work. I really like the David Lynch, Martin Scorsese, Krzysztof Kieslowski and Terry Gilliam editions, but there are quite a few others I haven‘t read.

Anyhow, in the Herzog one I came across this quote from his bête noire Klaus Kinski:

Herzog is a miserable, hateful, malevolent, avaricious, money-hungry, nasty, sadistic, treacherous, cowardly creep…he should be thrown alive to the crocodiles! An anaconda should strangle him slowly! A poisonous spider should sting him and paralyze his lungs! The most venomous serpent should bite him and make his brain explode! No panther claws should rip open his throat–that would be much too good for him! Huge red ants should p— into his lying eyes and gobble up his b—- and his guts! He should catch the plague! Syphilis! Yellow fever! Leprosy! It’s no use; the more I wish him the most gruesome deaths, the more he haunts me.

Nobody is going to buy the book if I say nice things about you, Werner.

Certainly his comments were partly tongue in cheek, but then he and Herzog mythically had a habit of drawing guns on one another during the filming of their movies together. Herzog even directed a movie about his relationship with Kinski, My Best Fiend, but Herzog does seem a bit imbalanced himself…

Kinski’s quote reminded me of a review I had written some years ago which I would like to share with you. It seems fitting since Ralph Steadman and Hunter S. Thompson had a similarly tumultuous relationship, which is well represented by Thompson’s letter to Steadman from the intro to The Curse of Lono.

So here’s my book review, I hope you enjoy:


DooDaaa: The Balletic Art of Gavin Twinge, a Triography by Ralph Steadman & Gavin Twinge (pronounced “Twarnge”) Bloomsbury, HC $29.95

It’s useless to imagine what might be that hasn’t been…senseless. A pointillist lost in a cubist’s nightmare. Hundreds of stacks of newspapers printed anemically with soy-based inks, quietly dissolving into late-night television pixels. History is like this, but we describe it generationally. So-and-so, his great-grandmother, she worked in hospice, she scrubbed floors, she rubbed elbows through hospital muumuus with Emma Goldman, learned about the newest cures for hysteria from her, she later worked as a producer on some early films. Never met Valentino, one of her greatest regrets.

By describe I mean an arc, the history we know, factually dictated in alphabetic ideograms we come to understand, as Noam Chomsky would have us believe, because we are literally hardwired to understand the printed word. The Japanese put out bowls of rice for the dead (rice of which the dead only consume the vaporous essence as it cools, withers, and hardens, that is them consuming it), and sail little ships, hundreds, a candle in each, incandescent and ephemeral, in appreciation of/out of respect for/representing the soul of/communicating with/and entertaining the dead.

History dissolves like this, leaving traces like calcified rice, obscurely consumed. Recognizable, but altogether different, less functional. Just different; it’s important to consider these differences. We read history and see the life, so, so vibrant once, all the more unreal for how much we resemble it. We see this history though a mirror which hangs askew on the wall, wrapped tightly in a diaphanous cloth, to prevent clarity (to prevent ghosts), we peek voyeuristically through the wrapped mirror’s chinks. We fear the present, this moment; we want to know how to keep it from harboring the dangers already past, sins of the past, mistakes from the past.

Gavin Twinge is one such mistake. He is a huge stain, like a monstrous limned meniscus, fading like a Cheshire grin. An intractable spirit best forgotten. He is barely a drop from the calligrapher’s quill on an ancient five-paneled screen. Barely a stroke of midnight in a futurist landscape, or the spoke of a futurist bicycle; rigorous metal girders holding aloft blue collar souls like so many petrified diamonds, stories buried deeper in the earth than the mines of Moria. Buried for our protection. To free him is to free a mutagenic viral infection, or to loosen the chastity belt society tightened on our animalistic prepubescent consciousness.

Gavin Twinge is inaccessible, an aggrandizing megalomaniac with a silver spoon in his mouth and a knife to the art critic’s throat babbling incoherently about flart and Vera and endless vintages of wine he’s quaffed in pursuit of his art’s luscious ass.

Read DooDaaa at your own risk, I tell you. For your own sake, please, do not read DooDaaa. You’ll wake up drunk, in a gutter on the side of the road, dangerously close to the highway, and you’ll have no idea where you left your car.

There were no polite ways of maintaining the status quo any more than there was a polite way to slit a hanging pig’s throat.” –Gavin


Curse of Lono by Ralph Steadman

I only tell you these things because I love you, Ralph.


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