By Troy Patterson
January 12, 2001 at 05:00 AM EST

The second volume of Hunter S. Thompson’s correspondence stretches roughly from the aftermath of the Summer of Love (and the publication of his first book, Hell’s Angels) to the dying days of the Ford administration (and the publication of his first anthology, The Great Shark Hunt). As such, Fear and Loathing in America: The Brutal Odyssey of an Outlaw Journalist (Simon & Schuster, $30) is an epic stream-of-consciousness documentary that captures the doctor of gonzo journalism — a national treasure, really — in action as he battles airheads on the left, Rotarians on the right, and bad vibes all around. Included are fond notes to friends and family, replies to fan mail, ludicrous expense reports, and many, many, many outlandish threats. This 730-page book surely could be leaner — there’s trash in here. But, as he wrote to Tom Wolfe on Oct. 26, 1968, Thompson was after what F. Scott Fitzgerald called ”the high white note,” and this collection is a symphony of such celestial peaks of excitement, humor, and wisdom. A-