James's Reviews > Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson
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Jul 18, 12

it was amazing
bookshelves: literature, journalism


Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is a masterpiece of paranoid monomania. Hunter S. Thompson and his lawyer in this quasi-fictionalized piece of memoir head off to Las Vegas in search of the American Dream. It’s an odyssey doomed to failure, and Thompson and his lawyer, the Samoan, are hell bent on enjoying that failure in one long ravenous drug-induced psychic meltdown.

Much of what goes on in this story is dependent on the reader buying into the absurdness of Thompson and his lawyer’s insane credulity, the private commentary they indulge in partly because of the enormous amount/and variety of drugs they’re imbibing and partly because of the genuine ridiculousness of their mission, which seems to add the moral gravitas necessary for them to believe themselves not just binging but also pilgrimaging to a sort of promised land of doping equilibrium.

It’s insane, absurd, and the drama happens primarily inside the disconnected space that emerges between Thompson’s internal narrative voice (his whimsical and sometimes forceful gonzo meditative pan-outs from what’s happening) and the dazed misunderstanding of everyone else unwittingly drawn into the external fracas he portrays.

Also, Thompson is just a first-rate writer. I can’t remember a book where I found so many manicured and forensically descriptive aphorisms. His capacity to describe being on drugs is as powerful as Shakespeare on love and aging.

There is no rhyme or reason to their adventure: it’s already a failure from the start, and in a way, without Thompson probably knowing it, he seems to have dragged literature and its existential turn down into a vast, labyrinthine cul-de-sac, where it might never emerge again save in a blaze of .357 gunfire.

This book will entertain, disgust, and enlighten but never transform you. It is a taste of junky oblivion mixed with a firm distaste for the status quo, a real document of private, futile rebellion, a rebellion that is embedded deep in the American soul, in its dream of surfeit and endless promise.
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