Friday, February 12, 2016

Booknote: Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Troy Little (adapter) and Hunter S. Thompson, Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Marietta, GA: Top Shelf Productions, 2015. ISBN: 97801603093750.

Genre: graphic novels
Subgenre: adaptations, biographical
Format: e-book galley
Source: NetGalley

I finished reading this, and I am honestly not sure what to make of this drug-fueled road trip. I will disclose that I have not read the book this is based on; I can tell you now that I have very little interest in reading that other book.

Thompson, using the false name of Dr. Duke, goes on a road trip to Las Vegas. Ostensibly he is there to write an article for a magazine on a dirt bike race. In reality, he is seeking evidence of the American Dream, whatever may remain of it. These are the years of Nixon and the Vietnam War. Is that part of the reason he remains constantly high on drugs? Perhaps, but in the end he is never sober, and yet somehow some writing happens, albeit incoherently more often than not. He is accompanied in his journey by his lawyer, who we know as Dr. Gonzo. He is just as big of a drug and alcohol user as Duke.

There are some amusing moment. They get assigned to cover a drug enforcement conference. They sit there mocking the speakers while high on mescaline and other substances with the cops and lawyers none the wiser. Somewhere in their cloudy haze of drugs Duke and Gonzo lay out the bullshit and stupidity in the so-called American Dream and in the Drug War.

The art is probably the best element in this comic. The artist brings Duke's drug addicted visions of monsters, etc. to life in full detail and color. You get the full and unrestrained drug fueled visions from his mind. This element illustrates the contrast between what Duke sees and the reality.

In the end, I wanted to like this more, but at times it reads like of those prank shows with douchebag buddies trying to trick innocent people. And yet, perhaps being on drugs may well be the only way to get through a very messed up world.

If you have read the book, you may find the comic of interest. For libraries, keep in mind this is an adult title that features various mature situations, including heavy drug use. In the end, I liked it, but I did not see the big deal many readers make out of Thompson or his book.

3 out of 5 stars.

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Additional reading notes:

Thompson often sees himself as a twisted reincarnation of Horatio Alger and his myth. Thompson does, in his own way, explore that myth of the self-made man and the fucked up American Dream. This, in a way, seems poignant and still relevant today.

A fascinating thing is that even drugged to the hilt, there's a certain poetic element in Thompson's writing.

Duke writes on history, and he had a sense that he was living a peak that might not come again. He writes,

"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 find flash, for reasons that nobody really understands at the time--and which never explain, in retrospect, what actually happened" (77). 

On crime and society, he writes,

"Reading the front page made me feel a lot better. Against that heinous background, my crimes were pale and meaningless. I was a relatively respectable citizen-- a multiple felon, perhaps, but certainly not dangerous" (82). 

And this gem:

"In a closed society where everybody's guilty, the only crime is getting caught. In a world of thieves, the only final sin is stupidity" (82).

I cannot help but wonder what Thompson would make of the massive criminal social clusterfuck today.

I find it amazing that, given all his drug use, that he managed to write let along find any fame. He spent more time high and/or paranoid than actually working.

Thompson nails it on his observation about "second-rate academic hustlers who get paid $500 to $1000 a hit for lecturing to cop crowds" (129). Those hucksters are alive and well today, getting much bigger paychecks and getting on prominent television shows. We even have some of those hucksters in librarianship, though that circuit does not pay as well financially (but it can pay well in notoriety).

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This book qualifies for the following 2016 Reading Challenges:

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