American Dream, banned books, Barbra Streisand, book review, Character Crush, Dr. Gonzo, fear and loathing, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, hunter s thompson, Las Vegas, Oscar Zeta Acosta, Raoul Duke
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
“We were somewhere around Barstow when the drugs began to take hold. I remember saying something like ‘I feel light-headed; maybe you should drive…'”
And so the journey begins; a journey where two drug-addled men, nay, two of ‘god’s very own prototypes’ shriek wildly in a red convertible christened the ‘Great Red Shark’, driving at break-neck speed through the unforgiving Las Vegas desert, straight for the mirage that is ‘The American Dream‘.
There it was; shimmering playfully in front of them, always just a little out of reach. Yet they drive anyway, hell-bent on grasping a tendril of it. Little did they know that they ended up creating their own version of it; a sick, twisted psychedelic nightmare birthed by drugs and fathered by pure Gonzo journalism.
Hailed as a cult classic, this savage journey is loosely based on Hunter S. Thompson (aka Raoul Duke, aka self-proclaimed Doctor of Journalism) and Oscar Zeta Acosta (aka Dr. Gonzo – the attorney) and their never-to-be-repeated-one-of-a-kind expedition to the limits of human endurance.
“Oh mama… could this really be the end???”
Initially the journey begins as a serious journalism assignment to cover the Mint 400; an annual race across the desert consisting of dune buggies, custom motorcycles, beer and unsavoury biker types.
“The only way to prepare for a trip like this, I felt, was to dress up like human peacocks and get crazy, then screech off across the desert and cover the story. Never lose sight of the primary responsibility.”
However the objective of the operation soon degenerates to a orgyistic mish-mash of circus casinos, dwarfs, apes, reptilian love, trashed hotel rooms, Barbra Streisand portraits and bad, bad trips. Very soon our two anti-protagonists end up drowning in a cesspool of their own making, trying to make sense of a world that really shouldn’t, but somehow does anyway.
Fear and Loathing isn’t for the faint hearted. Thompsons prose has a savage, animalistic vein to it; the mindless antics, a ritualistic mode which speaks of a desperate cleansing of the system. The things that happen in this book are foul, lawless and downright immoral, and it would be unbearable – if it weren’t for the humour.
“Every now and then when your life gets complicated and the weasels start closing in; the only real cure is to load up on heinous chemicals and then drive like a bastard from Hollywood to Las Vegas.”
Holy Mother of God… ‘Fear and Loathing’ was some ride and after reading it, I knew things would never be the same again. Because you know when you’ve been Gonzo’d.
Cara Lopez Lee said:
A compelling review, as always, Zee. I already have this on my to-read list, but you’ve convinced me it deserves a bump toward the top. When I read “On the Road” by Jack Kerouac and “Tropic of Cancer” by Henry Miller, I thought the writing was genius, but was too angry at their self-absorption and abandonment of decency to fully enjoy their stories. Yet one of my favorite lines in literature is Miller’s: “This is not a book, in the ordinary sense of the word. No, this is a prolonged insult, a gob of spit in the face of Art…” And, I agree that humor is redeeming. The quotes you’ve used are hilariously disturbing. Speaking of which, I suspect you’ll like Chuck Palahniuk. I thought “Invisible Monsters” was deliciously whacked.
Selva Kumar said:
5 stars! Then this must be really good. I don’t have this book but I had this movie in my laptop which I deleted without watching:-(
Selva, you have to get that movie back! It’s hilarious! My sense of humour is a bit on the dark side, but I think you’ll enjoy it. Give it a try.
Cara, thanks for your comment. Yes, the quotes are disturbing in a good way, and I wanted to illustrate that this book is littered with gems like this. I’d like to post the famous ‘Wave’ passage from the book because it’s so wonderfully written.
You know me quite well by now. I’ve got Palahnuik on my reading lists. But I’m saving him for later. When I find a good author I sort of ration them out. I’m scared I’ll gorge myself on them and be left without any new material! Hubert Selby Jr. is another author I’m dying to read. I read about him on the internet and his life story is amazing. As a writer I suggest you check it out.
Cara Lopez Lee said:
Hubert Selby Jr. Got it. I’ll check him out. Thanks, Zee.
If anything his life story is amazing. Funnily enough, I just checked my local library for his works and I was shocked that he wasn’t even on the catalogue. I’m going to have to do some serious complaining!
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kill the body and the head will die…….
the room looked like the site of some disastros zoological experient involving whiskey and gorillas…………………….
rip raoul duke you savage beast…………..
Thanks for the excellent quotes man.
If I didn’t feel it was too long-winded I’d post up the ‘Wave’ Speech! Oh what the hell, here it is!
You sold me with this comment “The things that happen in this book are foul, lawless and downright immoral, and it would be unbearable – if it weren’t for the humour.” Thanks for awesome review and highlighting a book I knew nothing about!
I’m glad you liked it enough to want to try it. Writing reviews have never felt so fulfilling! I generally dislike doing them, because I think I can never do the book justice.
Just on a side note, Thompson’s birthday is 18th July. I’m hoping to do a Thompson themed post on that day for anybody interested.
Mel u said:
This a very good book I read twice long ago-I also have read his collection of political essays-Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail-I enjoyed your review a lot
Thanks Mel! I really liked your post on ‘Rebecca’ and your idea of writing something from her POV. It would be good if someone could do a ‘Wide Sargasso Sea’ of it.
After reading ‘Fear and Loathing’ I have a lot of respect for Thompson. People only see the craziness sometimes, never the serious parts. Tomorrow is his birthday and I’m hoping I can write a tribute that will honour him in the best way possible.
Mel u said:
I have also read his book on The Hells Angels-it is good but not Gonzo Journalism-I will so look forward to your tribute to Hunter Thompson-the redo of Rebecca from the POV of Rebecca does have a lot of possibilities-I follow your blog now so I will see your post on Thompson
Thanks for following Mel.
I’m trying to write it now, about a 1/4 of the way through but it’s not going to be one of those glowing tributes I’m afraid! Oh well, I’m just gonna do it and see how it turns out.
John Edson said:
is this book considered banned? because i cannot find any information on it
John, I can honestly say that I’ve just done a google search and even looked on the ALA website and CANNOT FIND this book on any banned book list!!!
Completely dumb-founded. I _KNOW_ it has been banned, or at the very least challenged. I mean, c’mon, Winnie-the-pooh is on the banned book list. I would consider it a shame if Hunter’s beloved novel had never been banned. And I sure he would too, god bless his crazy ass.
Though I have no online proof of it, there have been several readings taken place over the years supported by the ALA, where Fear and Loathing has come up again and again. It is there SOMEWHERE, but nobody has actually posted up a comprehensive year-by-year list of what got banned, when and in which state/ country.
I wish the ALA would do this. Their website could do with an overhaul. Meanwhile, here’s a link that might satisfy you: http://www.thegriffonnews.com/2009/10/listen-to-banned-book-reading/
It has been a favourite of banned books supporters. Another guy read from it and posted it to youtube this September too.