Tuesday, September 08, 2009

What Does a PodPeep Read -- c.anne.gardner

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Hunter S. Thompson

A Wild and Extraordinary Ride down a Lost Highway...
The Lost Highway of the American Dream.

I love social satire. I don’t need my characters to be loveable, shit, I don’t even need them to be likeable. I just need them to be what they are, even if it’s revolting. I even rooted for Ellis’ Patrick Bateman as he tried to annihilate the society he lived in, a society that he tried so hard to fit into.

Now, I wasn’t old enough to remember much from the late 60’s early 70’s let alone the political aspects of Nixon’s presidency or the drug culture of the time, so this review won’t have any profound social or political commentary, except that comparisons can well be made to the drug culture of today, and it’s glaringly apparent that not much has changed except for the chemical constituents.

Considering the climate of the time: Nixon’s presidency, the war in Vietnam, and the country’s young men succumbing to the draft, it was no wonder that an entire generation wanted something more, for this was not the American Dream they had been sold. Sound familiar? And for some, the only way to drown out the hypocrisy gnawing at their brains was to give their brains an escape. Expand your mind, as that might be the only part of you that truly is free. Whatever it takes to get you directly out of your head – the higher the better. This story chronicles a journey utterly devoid of restraint and reason, as these two men, Raoul Duke and Dr. Gonzo, and their trunk full of felonies set themselves loose on Las Vegas – to them, the last vestige of the American dream. However, their idea of the American Dream is not how most of us would understand it, but somehow, through the fog of hallucinatory metaphor, we can actually see and feel what the main characters are searching for so desperately.

All that aside, even if the 60’s sub-culture is beyond your age group, Thompson’s writing is worth the read. It’s brilliant, sarcastic, and frighteningly absurd: Bars seething with has-been lounge lizards, tearing the patrons to shreds; blood soaked tacky hotels rooms; police car chases; kidnapping; gambling; excess; and debauchery … not to mention the Narcotics convention. The dialog is brilliant written, and through the drug haze, we get offered a media-spinless clarity, a clarity that can only be articulated by the truly disenchanted. Harrowing and ludicrous experiences abound: it’s amazing that the two main characters manage to make it out of Vegas alive, san the straightjackets.

Definitely a wild ride for all. The movie was quite good as well, but it lacks some of the subtleties that can only found in the written word. Thompson’s word:

“But our trip was different. It was to be a classic affirmation of everything right and true in the national character. A gross physical salute to the fantastic possibilities of life in this country. But only for those with true grit. We are all wired into a survival trip now. No more of the speed that fueled the 60's. That was the fatal flaw in Tim Leary's trip. He crashed around America selling "consciousness expansion" without ever giving a thought to the grim meat-hook realities that were lying in wait for all the people who took him seriously... All those pathetically eager acid freaks who thought they could buy Peace and Understanding for three bucks a hit. But their loss and failure is ours too. What Leary took down with him was the central illusion of a whole life-style that he helped create... a generation of permanent cripples, failed seekers, who never understood the essential old-mystic fallacy of the Acid Culture: the desperate assumption that somebody... or at least some force - is tending the light at the end of the tunnel.”


Christy Pinheiro, EA ABA said...

Great review, as usual.

I even like the cover. It's foul and wonderful at the same time. Amazingly, the color makes it seem slightly more gross. I haven't read much from Hunter S. Thompson, but I think I need to pick this one up. I never saw the movie so the book won't be ruined "in advance" for me.

I think I'll mention the cover to The Caustic Cover Critic, another of my favorite bloggers.

Cheryl Anne Gardner said...

That was an older cover. I think they are going with a movie themed cover for the book now, and I don't quite like it as much. This one represents the drawings in the book much better than the Johnny Depp cover. Not that I don't like Johnny Depp, but I find movie covers kind of cheesey.