Regardless of whether you like the book or not, whether you consider it Thompson's best or not, this is an important work in American literature, (GonRegardless of whether you like the book or not, whether you consider it Thompson's best or not, this is an important work in American literature, (Gonzo) journalism, and, perhaps more peculiarly, the literature of the American West. The drug culture stuff is wildly funny, terrifying, and informative, capturing the zeitgeist of the early 1970s in much of its horrendous complexity. There is no question of the immense impact of drugs during this period, but what seems more important is Thompson's criticism of the American Dream and the corruption pervasive throughout American culture.
This novel is not a corruption of the American Dream; it is "the American Dream in action" (11), in all its sordid forms. It is also like a modern Western, not only for being located in the West, but in the quest for ideals often embodied in the mythic lure of the West and the Frontier. Many of the same impulses that drove early Americans to reject European ideals and to strike out for the Frontier, to carve a place for themselves in the "New World", are found in this book, yet they're ideals that don't know where to go after the Frontier has been closed and the "last and greatest 'Indian War'" (Richard Slotkin's The Fatal Environment, xi) of Vietnam is now clearly a giant nightmare, as is the failed counterculture of the 60s. America itself has become confused and trapped in a world grown smaller and more crowded, where expansion and unlimited freedom (at other people's expense) is much more difficult to achieve -- where did that expansion really get us in the first place?
Thompson is both profoundly incisive and brutally irresponsible in the same breath. He leaves no one innocent and no one unharmed. Tonally, Fear and Loathing is hilariously unhinged in the first half, but then becomes more strained and uncomfortable in the second half. I laughed and laughed at Duke and Gonzo's drug-fueled scams and antics that leave only a trail of destruction. But in the second half, the stakes seem to be raised with Lucy and the waitress of the North Vegas diner. Where I was amused by Duke and Gonzo offending uptight, high-end tourists and authority types, their treatment of Lucy and the waitress was much harder to stomach. These are terrible men, doing terrible things, in a world gone terrible. Duke asks, "But who was the Hero of this filthy drama" (122)? No one is. Like Sergio Leone's Dollar's trilogy, or the reference to Shakespeare's Othello that motivated Duke's question, Fear and Loathing doesn't believe in heroes -- those cowboys are long gone, leaving me to wonder if they had ever existed at all. The novel more savagely and perhaps more complicatedly channels the anxiety in Ray Bradbury's story "--And the Moon be Still as Bright" from The Martian Chronicles: "I hate this feeling of thinking I'm doing right when I'm not really certain I am. Who are we, anyway? The majority? . . . The majority is always holy, is it not? . . . Never wrong for one little insignificant tiny moment, is it? Never ever wrong in ten million years? . . . What is this majority and who are in it? And what do they think and how did they get that way and will they ever change and how the devil did I get caught in this rotten majority? I don't feel comfortable. Is it claustrophobia, fear of crowds, or common sense? Can one man be right, while all the world thinks they are right? Let's not think about it. Let's crawl around and act exciting and pull the trigger. There, and there!" (95) This is what's frightening and poignant about being "just another freak in the Freak Kingdom" (Thompson 83). We've lost our way, becoming monsters "just sick enough to be totally confident" (204).
Fear and Loathing remains important because it remains relevant. Thompson's anarchic method might be cruel, but he told us it would be, and that hardly discredits his point. The quest for the American Dream is a waste of time, because we're still living it, in all its horrific reality. How we get out of this quandary is anyone's guess. Thompson didn't seem to have an answer, or at least wasn't very forthcoming with it. But he lays out the problem pretty potently and profoundly. Perhaps that in itself is a sign of improvement. Or maybe it only further indicates just how far down the rabbit hole we've all gone. ...more
A decent introduction and overview of the series and Buffy studies. If you're just getting into the criticism of Buffy then this might be a nice placeA decent introduction and overview of the series and Buffy studies. If you're just getting into the criticism of Buffy then this might be a nice place to start. I like the brief overview of female heroines on film and TV to help show where Buffy Summers joins the pack. Billson adequately highlights broad themes and how Buffy subverts, mixes, and otherwise plays with multiple genres to create something altogether new. This doesn't mean Buffy is perfect or easy to compartmentalize - it has its faults and moments of weakness.
Where Billson's book falls short for me is in her rather flimsy criticism of some of the "weaker" supporting characters. Billson basically doesn't like Riley, Tara and Dawn. She then verbally abuses them for being not to her taste and considers it criticism. It's not. Calling someone boring or dumb doesn't count as analytical criticism of the kind I expect from a book of this nature. I expect such benign criticism from aintitcoolnews, not from a BFI book.
Billson also spends a little more time summarizing each season than I thought necessary. An introductory text like this is most likely to be read by people who already have watched and know the storyline and just want a light dose of criticism to supplement their own thoughts. Still, her criticism is pretty good. Billson's examination of season one nicely shows how economical and well executed season one is and how it stands on its own quite well. I liked this part because the most general criticism I hear from people discovering the show now is that season one is more something you get through before getting to the real good stuff than a season to be taken seriously. The show remains remarkably loyal to that first season throughout its run and people would be well served by watching that season with as much generosity as they give to the other seasons.
Overall, this is a flawed but nice book. It's a really fast read and has moments of good, perceptive criticism. The supplemental section of websites and other Buffy studies texts is also useful. ...more
It was fun to pull this quirky collection of (bad/silly) poems off the shelf and read them again. They're typical Burton; if you're into his stuff, yoIt was fun to pull this quirky collection of (bad/silly) poems off the shelf and read them again. They're typical Burton; if you're into his stuff, you'll like this, if you're not into it, you won't like this. I'm still fond of these poems, though I don't completely know why. They're just really amusing. I suspect that Burton knows these aren't great poems, and that the kitschy, dopey rhymes are part of the point. These stories address common Burton topics, like: outsiders, alienation, unobtainable love, and familial anxiety - infidelity, birth, strange children, negligent parents, etc. Another look at really unpleasant things in an amusing, laughable, and ridiculous way that might perpetuate as much as it alleviates any personal anxiety we might have towards the topics of this book. ...more
This is a fabulous, fascinating, humorous, and all together enjoyable look at music fans. The photographs of these fans in their fan garb are pretty gThis is a fabulous, fascinating, humorous, and all together enjoyable look at music fans. The photographs of these fans in their fan garb are pretty great. The photos show, and Desmond Morris' forward explains, how fashion is used to show our allegiance to a certain group. Often we get caught making fun of goths or shoe-gazers or whoever for not actually being as individual as they might claim their fashion makes them. This might be true, but this book points out that we're missing the communal/tribal aspect of those "individual" fashions. A fashion is basically the simultaneous expression of the individual as well as the community that individual belongs to - community and individual remain ever connected.
The devotion these people have to their music god(s) is pretty fascinating for me, since I feel pretty passionate about a number of bands (some of them are in this book), but I look at these fans and don't feel that I quite fit into any of these fashion groups. So that's an interesting personal thought that doesn't really relate to the quality of this collection, except to show how Mollision's photographs really make me think about somethings. The title is completely appropriate, for these fans really do seem to be the Devout of the devout. I salute them all. ...more
I generally don't dig on "worst of" books/lists/whatever. It seems like a waste of time to read about the alleged worst of something. Often I don't evI generally don't dig on "worst of" books/lists/whatever. It seems like a waste of time to read about the alleged worst of something. Often I don't even think some of those worsts are the worst, but I guess I think that of many bests as well. Anyway. Nevermind.
Because I recently returned from an exciting hostel experience at the prestigious Schlafmeile Hostel in former-East Berlin, and had this last summer spent two months living in youth hostels across England, I was intrigued by and curious about this book. Hostel culture is interesting to me.
The Hans Brinker hostel might be the grossest hostel in the world. They pass it off as being a budget hostel, except they charge more than other hostels, because they've gained the reputation as 'the worst' and are able to con people into staying there, just to say they did. Doesn't sound like anything more than a business scam, which might be the real reason why they're the worst - the place survives by convincing people to pay more for less (way less). This goes for the book as well, which costs a whopping $35 - someone's loving how they convinced people to spend more on this book than you would on the collected fictions of Jorge Luis Borges, or most Criterion DVDs; uncool and I'm not amused.
Also, the hostel isn't just crappy, but deliberately so. The people go out of their way to be unaccommodating and generally rude. Which hurts the appeal of the place to me. I much prefer spending a night in a dive hotel that is simply a dive because it couldn't be anything else. But when you intentionally make your hotel awful, then I'm more annoyed than amused.
The Hans Brinker may claim to have nothing, but what it does have are great ad campaigns. Many of the campaigns I found very amusing. The Accidentally Eco-Friendly campaign is pretty funny - especially the Eco-Towel poster that features a dude using the curtains to towel off; I laughed and cringed. It's good advertising. But the problem with advertising is that you're trying to make something appealing to people, more appealing than it really is, to convince them it has use value and deserves their money. All you do by advertising the lack of amenities is making nothing look like more appealing and worth your money. A campaign like that just has a different target audience than most places. But the Brinker scams the budget traveler, the poor, perhaps ignorant, sucker who wants a cheap hotel or a cheap laugh, gets neither, because the hostel isn't the cheapest. So it's good for a hollow experience that leaves you under budget and with an STD. Sorry, doesn't sound cool, sounds like a scam. The owner admits that all advertising is dishonest, which I might agree with, but that doesn't make me feel any better about his dishonesty. But maybe he feels better and that's something, I guess.
But the book was quick, gross, and generally humorous in a superficial way. The copious pictures are sometimes funny. The ads are amusing. The whole thing is ridiculous, which I do find kinda funny. Misbehavior can be funny, as can gross hostel experiences. So reading this book and looking at the pictures was fun enough, but maybe it was as cheap a laugh as the hostel itself offers. ...more