Thoughts on Hunter S. Thompson’s ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’

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I never expected that this would be the case when I started to read it, but Thompson’s ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’ has become one of my favourite books. I can’t really say why, either, other than it is a great read and highly entertaining, as well as being really engaging due to the relaxed first-person narrative. The subject matter is not one that I particularly like (i.e. excessive drinking and drug taking-  although I’m looking forward to reading Burrough’s ‘Junky’, and am currently getting absorbed by Amis’s ‘Money’ with its permanently sozzled narrator), but it does make for some highly-interesting and surprisingly amusing scenes. Also, the descriptions are rather poetic, too. Indeed, the first few lines of the book set the pace for the tone of much of the rest of the work:

We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold. I remember saying something like “I feel a bit lightheaded; maybe you should drive….” And suddenly there was a terrible roar all around us and the sky was full of what looked like huge bats, all swooping and screeching and diving around the car, which was going about a hundred miles an hour with the top down to Las Vegas. And a voice was screaming: “Holy Jesus! What are these goddamn animals?”

Then it was quiet again. My attorney had taken his shirt off and was pouring beer on his chest, to facilitate the tanning process.

As with ‘On the Road’, much of this novel is a road-trip story that is a dramatised account of the author’s real-life experiences, and in a similar way, the main protagonists all seem somewhat lacking in intention and direction. However, unlike Kerouac, Thompson is travelling as part of a journalism assignment, with the drug-taking and illegal activities taking place whilst carrying out this intention, and with little regard for the consequences; Thompson (or ‘Raoul Duke’) and his Samoan attorney will return to their real lives as soon as the events of the novel are over. In ‘On the Road’, the travelling and the events that occur are still an escape from the author’s usual life, but are also integral to creating his life, and allowing him to experiment with new avenues and paths down which to move on with his life.

I managed to surprise myself reading this text in part as well because some of my favourite passages and scenes involved the characters getting incredibly high or wasted whilst locked in their hotel rooms, and the light way in which their drug taking is approached. I think that it appealed to me so much simply because these actions are so far removed from both what I know and what I would usually read, and it made an incredibly fresh change. Also, the Ralph Steadman images make the book interesting, as besides being wonderfully evocative and lively (if a little chaotic and disturbing), they also give an incredibly adult book a somewhat childish air, as very few adult novels have in-text drawings.

This is definitely a text that I would recommend, and will happily read it again when I get the chance. Also, it has given me many ideas for my own writing, which can only be a good thing!

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