Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream (Modern Library) (英語) ペーパーバック – 1998/5/12
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This cult classic of gonzo journalism is the best chronicle of drug-soaked, addle-brained, rollicking good times ever committed to the printed page. It is also the tale of a long weekend road trip that has gone down in the annals of American pop culture as one of the strangest journeys ever undertaken.
Now a major motion picture from Universal, directed by Terry Gilliam and starring Johnny Depp and Benicio del Toro.
Hunter S. Thompson (July 18, 1937 — February 20, 2005) was an American journalist and author. He was known for his flamboyant writing style, most notably deployed in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, which blurred the distinctions between writer and subject, fiction and nonfiction.
The best source on Thompson's writing style and personality is Thompson himself. His books include Hell's Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga (1966), Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream (1972), Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72 (1973); The Great Shark Hunt: Strange Tales from a Strange Time (1979); The Curse of Lono(1983); Generation of Swine, Gonzo Papers Vol. 2: Tales of Shame and Degradation in the 80's (1988); and Songs of the Doomed (1990).
I'm not sure if anything can be "learned" from such a book or if could be called an intellectually enriching experience, but it's certainly a culturally enriching one, and a sturdy landmark of American journalism that's unlikely to lose it's relevance -- or it's appeal -- anytime soon.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is followed by two short stories. The first is the story of the death of Ruben Salazar, which I believe may have been included simply to prove that Hunter S. Thompson was capable of sane, real journalism. That is followed by a story of a trip to the Kentucky Derby, which falls somewhere between Fear and Loathing, and Strange Rumblings in Aztlan. I did notice that the phrase 'fear and loathing' was slipped somewhere into each of the short stories. That makes me want to read more of Thompson's old magazine articles to see if he did that in all of them. The Kentucky is Decadent and Depraved leaves me wondering, also, if Ralph Steadman is a real person and was he actually with Thompson at the Derby, or was he another delusion similar to the Samoan lawyer in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas?
Easy to read; impossible to follow. But that's Hunter S. Thompson, right?
I was hooked on HST's moral philosophy and precise writing style right away. Immediately after F&L I read Hell's Angels, his first published book, and loved that too. Through the years since I've read most of his other books -- The Proud Highway, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72, The Great Shark Hunt, and the Rum Diary most notable among them.
Very recently, a workplace debate with a coworker who despises Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (and Thompson as a concept) inspired me to go back and read F&L a second time. It's been almost 10 years since the first reading, and I'm shocked at how much of what he was really talking about flew right over my head when I was 15. The slapstick humor and ridiculous hi-jinks that Raoul Duke and his "attorney" Dr. Gonzo get into are still fun and aptly described, but on a closer reading these serve a similar purpose as does the magician's other hand, yanking your attention away from the real thing going on.
This really is the quintessential novel about the death of the American 60s and the youth idealism of that period. If you've heard anything about this book you're probably familiar with the chaos and the hedonism and the rampant drug use (all admitted by Thompson as fictional exaggerations), and you probably know one-liners like: "We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold," or "Buy the ticket, take the ride," or the famous "“We can't stop here, this is bat country!” To most non-fans Thompson is best remembered for these sort of one-offs that've been made cliche by the commercial reproduction machine.
Below is a long-ish passage about the end of the 60s from Fear in Loathing in Las Vegas that is less well-known than the cliches and displays Thompson as what he really was beneath the rage, drugs, and liquor: a visionary thinker and writer of the first order.
“Strange memories on this nervous night in Las Vegas. Five years later? Six? It seems like a lifetime, or at least a Main Era—the kind of peak that never comes again. San Francisco in the middle sixties was a very special time and place to be a part of. Maybe it meant something. Maybe not, in the long run . . . but no explanation, no mix of words or music or memories can touch that sense of knowing that you were there and alive in that corner of time and the world. Whatever it meant. . . .
History is hard to know, because of all the hired bullshit, but even without being sure of “history” it seems entirely reasonable to think that every now and then the energy of a whole generation comes to a head in a long fine flash, for reasons that nobody really understands at the time—and which never explain, in retrospect, what actually happened.
My central memory of that time seems to hang on one or five or maybe forty nights—or very early mornings—when I left the Fillmore half-crazy and, instead of going home, aimed the big 650 Lightning across the Bay Bridge at a hundred miles an hour wearing L. L. Bean shorts and a Butte sheepherder's jacket . . . booming through the Treasure Island tunnel at the lights of Oakland and Berkeley and Richmond, not quite sure which turn-off to take when I got to the other end (always stalling at the toll-gate, too twisted to find neutral while I fumbled for change) . . . but being absolutely certain that no matter which way I went I would come to a place where people were just as high and wild as I was: No doubt at all about that. . . .
There was madness in any direction, at any hour. If not across the Bay, then up the Golden Gate or down 101 to Los Altos or La Honda. . . . You could strike sparks anywhere. There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning. . . .
And that, I think, was the handle—that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn’t need that. Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting—on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave. . . .
So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark—that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.”