Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson

Posted March 30, 2015 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Book of the Month, Classic / 2 Comments

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. ThompsonTitle: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (Goodreads)
Author: Hunter S. Thompson
Artist: Ralph Steadman
Published: Harper Perennial, 1971
Pages: 230
Genres: Classic
My Copy: Paperback

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Journalist, Raoul Duke heads to Las Vegas with his attorney Dr Gonzo in order to cover the Mint 400 motorcycle race. After experimenting with some recreational drugs, LSD, ether, cocaine, cannabis and alcohol, their assignment was quickly abandoned. What follows is a series of hallucinogenic trips that end in disaster from trashed hotel rooms, car wrecks and much more. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream is a roman à clef, with autobiographical elements in which Hunter S. Thompson writes a retrospective of the 1960s countercultural movement.

Hunter S. Thompson was a journalist, but he was best known for his novel Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. While working in Journalism he coined the term Gonzo journalism which is a writing style he adopted for his first person narratives. The style is a combination of fact and fiction that allows Thompson a more personal approach to his articles. Combining elements of sarcasm, humour, exaggeration and profanity it allowed a first person look into social criticism. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas was a result of Gonzo journalism and was originally published as a two part series in Rolling Stone magazine in 1971.

When thinking about the life of Hunter S. Thompson, I find it hard to imagine him as someone who  critiques the 1960s counterculture. I think of him saying things like “I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they’ve always worked for me.” Thompson has often stated that this novel was an exploration into the death of the American Dream but his views on counterculture are so fascinating. Drawing inspiration from his two favourite novels The Great Gatsby and On The Road, Thompson combines ideas of travelogue and the American Dream and goes on to show the reason why drug use was not the answer to social problems.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is a pretty confronting novel; the descriptions of drug-induced hazes and lurid hallucinogenic trips are very vivid and confronting. I am pretty sure I have read this book in the past but I had not marked it as read on Goodreads, LibraryThing or even the spreadsheet I keep. However going into the novel everything felt so familiar and I cannot tell if it was due to the movie adaptation or if I have actually read the book before.

The experience of reading Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is enhanced by the illustrations done by Ralph Steadman. My edition of the book stated in the introduction that Hunter S. Thompson requested the art to be done by Steadman because he believed this illustrator really understood the concept of Gonzo journalism. The novel is an interesting book and well worth exploring, and I was interested to see the satirical side and surprised at the way Thompson criticised his own lifestyle in this autobiographical novel.

2 responses to “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson

  1. Rob

    I enjoyed this a lot, but I did find the ‘autobiographical but also fiction’ angle a little annoying. I took most of it as fiction while reading it personally, but I guess we really don’t know.

    The illustrations were pretty amazing. Really fit the book.

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