Burn, “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”, Burn

Heralded as the “best book on the dope decade” by the New York Times Book Review, Hunter S. Thompson‘s documented drug orgy through Las Vegas would no doubt leave Nancy Reagan blushing and D.A.R.E. founders rethinking their motto. Under the pseudonym of Raoul Duke, Thompson travels with his Samoan attorney, Dr. Gonzo, in a souped-up convertible dubbed the “Great Red Shark.” In its trunk, they stow “two bags of grass, seventy-five pellets of mescaline, five sheets of high-powered blotter acid, a salt shaker half-full of cocaine and a whole galaxy of multicolored uppers, downers, screamers, laughers…. A quart of tequila, a quart of rum, a case of Budweiser, a pint of raw ether and two dozen amyls,” which they manage to consume during their short tour.

On assignment from a sports magazine to cover “the fabulous Mint 400”–a free-for-all biker’s race in the heart of the Nevada desert–the drug-a-delic duo stumbles through Vegas in hallucinatory hopes of finding the American dream (two truck-stop waitresses tell them it’s nearby, but can’t remember if it’s on the right or the left). They of course never get the story, but they do commit the only sins in Vegas: “burning the locals, abusing the tourists, terrifying the help.” For Thompson to remember and pen his experiences with such clarity and wit is nothing short of a miracle; an impressive feat no matter how one feels about the subject matter. A first-rate sensibility twinger, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is a pop-culture classic, an icon of an era past, and a nugget of pure comedic genius. Rebekah Warren

The GOOD:

“That Death of the American Dream Thing”,March 7, 2007

By 
Nick (Switzerland) – See all my reviews
 

This novel is a classic of American Literature in the same right as Moby Dick, The Scarlet Letter, The Catcher in the Rye, and countless others. True, it’s not appreciated by everyone (as can be seen in the reviews below) but neither was and is Moby Dick. This is definitely a baroque classic too, and it was groundbreaking in its own time (which it may not be anymore, logically, but that’s not all the book is about, far from that).

As some have said before me, it’s indeed a great window open on an era now dead: the sad end of all the dreams of the 60’s; and that is important to our own time because I am not sure we ever recovered from all those dead dreams. Even in my generation, I know a lot of people who still look back with major nostalgia even though they didn’t even exist exist in the 60’s. That was a very significant moment in time during the 20th century and it certainly set the setting for as far as today.
Some say there is no real plot to this book; much the same can be and was said about Moby Dick. I won’t deny that, but I will point out that not all books are about “plots” and that there is ALWAYS a plot, no matter how minimal or nonsensical it gets. A trip to nowhere without any clear direction in search of the American Dream, what do you expect? A clear plot with obvious twists and the likes? Of course not.

That book is fun, disturbing, daring, and much deeper and serious than it may appear to the shallow reader. Definitely worth it, and definitely classic. Wandering around the still smoking embers of the Fallen Dream with Hunter S. Thompson is an experience you don’t want to miss.

The BAD:

 A Period Piece Whose Period Has Now Passed,May 23, 2005

This review is from: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream (Paperback)

With Hunter S Thompson’s death, I found myself intrigued with his work and reread Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Sadly, unlike many books I read 25-40 years ago, this one does not stand the test of time. If timelessness is a hallmark of great literature, this one is surely not “great.” I can’t imagine it will be read much in the future, unlike work by Hemingway, Steinbeck, Faulkner or F. Scott Fitzgerald. It seems incredibly dated, full of allusions to events in the 1970s that later readers will not understand (e.g.,lyrics of obscure Bob Dylan songs; asides about former vice president Spiro Agnew).

There is barely a plot. Most of the drug-taking episodes are ridiculously exaggerated. His world view is a litany of jibes or jokes about ordinary Americans (tourists in Las Vegas, cops at a drug convention) and red necks that are caricatures whose insightfulness cannot be matched simply by googling “red neck jokes.” Thompson’s world view is designed to make college-educated drug takers feel superior to regular folks.

To the extent Thompson is glorifying the “drug culture,” the book makes a strong argument for cracking down on people who take a lot of drugs. At various times the drug-crazed Raoul Duke or his attorney (1) scare an elderly hotel maid into thinking she is about to be shot with a magnum simply for coming into their hotel room to clean it; (2) scare a waitress into thinking her throat is about to be slit because she objected to an obscene comment; (3) and are on the verge of raping a 17 year old. I suppose my funny bone has gone missing on that sort of thing.

Thompson can parse a phrase and the first few pages are full of wonderful descriptions. But I have to wonder whether his notoriety is really deserved (no doubt egged on by his constant appearances in Doonesbury). Maybe his passing was just a reminder for the me generation that our days are numbered.

Just a simple contrast. Hemingway in his day became legendary, at least among men, for his lifestyle. But he actually did write some damned great books.

And The UGLY:

 I bothered to read THIS?,January 29, 2000

This review is from: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream (Paperback)

This book is loathsome. I don’t even rate it at all. It is incoherent, rambling, and remarkable solely for its subject – which CLAIMS to be realistic and drug-fuelled. It is sordid, squalid and depressing, with no redeeming qualities, except to convince one that drugs are just as you always thought they were. This book is overhyped, and nauseating. The cartoons merely annoy and irritate, especially the deliberately blotted pages. There is no insight into the human soul, or what passes for a human soul in these soulless victims of their own selves. I still do not believe that I read it all through, and will definitely never do so again. Never before has a book actually made me feel so physically sick – I would have flung it on the fire had there been one handy. The only thing it would be good for would be as compulsory reading in drying-out drug rehab clinics, to convince people that they don’t deserve to demean themselves so miserably in this way again.

There is only one good episode in this entire work, involving a sportsman and a young fan, which genuinely shows some insight and considered attack upon the American dream. The rest of the book is all misanthropic attack, failing to satisfy the principal rule of satire – there MUST be at least some basis of the thing you are attacking in your attack, rather than just attack and nothing to show what you are attacking.

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~ by MorbidbookS, Extreme Fiction Publisher. on April 23, 2011.

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