Writing a cover letter with Hunter S. Thompson

Hunter S. Thompson by 1f2frfbf on Flickr

I’m sitting on a hard wooden chair, drinking cold coffee, and struggling to write an impassioned yet professional cover letter.

The thing is, the specter of Hunter S. Thompson keeps blowing cigarette smoke in my face.

“So that’s how you’re starting, is it?” says Hunter, looking over my shoulder at my opening paragraph.

“Well, I guess that’s what they want you to say.”

He darts away to examine something happening outside my window.

“Get f–cked, Hunter.” I grumble, and continue to tweak the same godforsaken sentence that a bunch of other chumps are simultaneously tweaking.

“It really IS with great enthusiasm that I apply for this summer reporting position…” I say, defensively.

But Hunter is gone, and all I have left is the letter than he wrote to the Vancouver Sun, back in 1958.

I re-read it, and laugh, wishing that I had even half his chutzpah. In case you’ve never seen this classic, here are some excerpts from his letter:



I got a hell of a kick reading the piece Time magazine did this week on The Sun. In addition to wishing you the best of luck, I’d also like to offer my services.

Since I haven’t seen a copy of the “new” Sun yet, I’ll have to make this a tentative offer. I stepped into a dung-hole the last time I took a job with a paper I didn’t know anything about (see enclosed clippings) and I’m not quite ready to go charging up another blind alley. By the time you get this letter, I’ll have gotten hold of some of the recent issues of The Sun. Unless it looks totally worthless, I’ll let my offer stand.

And don’t think that my arrogance is unintentional: it’s just that I’d rather offend you now than after I started working for you. I didn’t make myself clear to the last man I worked for until after I took the job. It was as if the Marquis de Sade had suddenly found himself working for Billy Graham. The man despised me, of course, and I had nothing but contempt for him and everything he stood for. If you asked him, he’d tell you that I’m “not very likable, (that I) hate people, (that I) just want to be left alone, and (that I) feel too superior to mingle with the average person.” (That’s a direct quote from a memo he sent to the publisher.) Nothing beats having good references.

My favourite part:

… [I’ve] developed a healthy contempt for journalism as a profession. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a damned shame that a field as potentially dynamic and vital as journalism should be overrun with dullards, bums, and hacks, hag-ridden with myopia, apathy, and complacence, and generally stuck in a bog of stagnant mediocrity. If this is what you’re trying to get The Sun away from, then I think I’d like to work for you.”

Read the full letter on the Vancouver Sun’s website.


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10 thoughts on “Writing a cover letter with Hunter S. Thompson

  1. Pingback: Thesis writing with George Orwell « The Fab Files

  2. First off I would like to say awesome blog! I had a quick question that I’d like to ask if you don’t mind.
    I was interested to know how you center yourself and clear your thoughts prior to
    writing. I’ve had a hard time clearing my mind in getting my ideas out. I truly do take pleasure in writing however it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are generally wasted simply just trying to figure out how to begin. Any suggestions or tips? Thank you!

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