Tag: On the Road

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.

Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs

Posted June 14, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Classic / 5 Comments

Naked Lunch by William S. BurroughsTitle: Naked Lunch (Goodreads)
Author: William S. Burroughs
Published: Grove Press, 1959
Pages: 289
Genres: Classic
My Copy: Personal Copy

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

In a complex and disturbing string of events, William Lee finds himself fleeing from the police. While on the run, this drug addict finds himself journeying across the United States and into Mexico. His travels lead him into the underground world of both drug and homosexual culture. The coun
ter story revolves around the use of mind control by the government and psychiatrists to manipulate and direct the public.

Considered one of the most important novels of the twentieth century, William S. Burroughs’ Naked Lunch is a bizarre cut up narrative protesting the death penalty. You got that the book was trying to do that from the synopsis right? Naked Lunch is a non-linear narrative that does make it really difficult to summarise the plot. Burroughs is famously known for his cut-up narrative; which is a literary technique that can be traced back to the Dadaists in the 1920s. For more information about Burroughs and cut-up check out my post called William S. Burroughs & Surrealist Writing Methods.

The book looks into two key groups; the drug and homosexual subcultures. The two unite early in the novel by the narrator but are never mutually exclusive. At the start of the book William Lee believes he will be punished more harshly for his involvement in homosexual activities than using and selling illegal drugs, which is really sad to think that people are being still victimised over their sexuality and drugs have just become socially acceptable.

Then the subplot largely focuses on the way in which psychotherapy combines with the government to institute mind control. Dr Benway experiments on ways to manipulate the minds of his patients in order to further his research. With no ethical consideration, he often changes his patient’s sexual identity and then tries to cure them. He also creates a mental controlling device for the towns as a way to use the population for his sadistic experiments and put them through psychological torture. Many of these experimental towns are based on the utopian idea and Burroughs like to explore the problems with the idea in a rather sinister way.

So how is this novel a protest to the death penalty? Well that would be in the same way Jonathan Swift’s Modest Proposal ideals with economics. William S. Burroughs uses Juvenalian satire to highlight the barbaric, disgusting and anachronism of capital punishment. While the sex in Naked Lunch can be considered as mutual satisfaction sometimes, it is also used as a metaphor (especially in the more violent sexual acts) for defeating an enemy, self serving idol worshipping and capital punishment. The results of these metaphors are often confusing, shocking, taboo and sickening. Sex is a powerful tool with this novel and while it does look at sex and relationships in a positive way (rarely), the majority is used to symbolise the dark and cynical themes within the book.

William Lee is obviously William S. Burroughs alter ego and the book can be read as a semi-autobiographical novel through a serious drug addiction but like Infinite Jest there is so much more going on. This book did remind me a lot of Infinite Jest; not just with how it dealt with drug addiction but the way it used very dark themes to look at other social issues. William S. Burroughs had a similar experience to the narrator, taking trips around the world in order to avoid being arrested. Even the addition and sexual experimentation is similar to the authors own experiences, as part of his attempts to separate himself from mainstream culture. William S. Burroughs is a fascinating man and I’m interested to learn/blog more about him.

I’m not sure what the difference between the original and restored text but I did read the restored edition. While this was a really weird and somewhat difficult book to get though there is so many interesting themes to explore that I feel very satisfied by completing this novel. It is disturbing and some of it will make you feel sick to your stomach and I can understand why people hate this book. This is a really intense novel that will drain you emotionally and mentally. The book is full of violent and graphic sex, so it will never be for everyone but I can see why it is an important novel, not just because of the obscenity trial but also for all the themes.

I’ve not read many Beat novels in my life, I think On the Road was the only other one but I do like the gritty and surreal approach both books take. I’m not sure if this is a major theme for all beat novels but if so, I will have to read more. I doubt I’ll ever return to Naked Lunch simply because of how disturbing some of the scenes are but I know I can be completely satisfied with having read this one and judging by this review, I can also take comfort in the fact I was able to pick it apart and understand some of the themes.

Monthly Review – December 2012

Posted December 31, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Monthly Reading / 0 Comments

Now that 2012 has come to close, I find myself not reflecting on my year of reading but eagerly anticipating the books I get to read next year. All my reflections of 2012 seemed to have taken place in November. So now I want the Literary Exploration reading challenge to begin.

But as this is the end of December, let me quickly cover the important events of this month. Literary Exploration decided to read a travel/road trip book for the month; the book picked was the beat novel On the Road. This book had a lot of mixed reactions; even people thinking their own travel diaries would be more interesting. I’m now very concerned about what has happened when my wife goes travelling  For me I thought it was an enjoyable look at the beat generation and their ideals. Check out the conversations on Goodreads to find out what people said about this book.

A reminder that in January we will be reading Shadow of the Wind; I love this book and I’m really looking forward to seeing what the discussions will be like. I still haven’t decided if I want to reread it yet or wait till the series has finished before rereading it in its entirety. Either way, I look forward to hearing people’s thoughts.

As for my personal reading, I focused on reading non-fiction this month; well I started off that way but I got distracted. I’ve read some great books this month including; By the Book, a Readers Guide to Life which was a fascinating look at the author’s reading journey. Also I tried some dirty realism with Factotum by Charles Bukowski, a raw and gritty semi autobiographical novel which I highly recommend. What were your highlights of this month? Did you read anything great?

Monthly Reading

  • By the Book, A Reader’s Guide to Life by Ramona Koval
  • Day of the Oprichnik by Vladimir Sorokin
  • Factotum by Charles Bukowski
  • Joseph Anton by Salman Rushdie
  • Les Misérables by Victor Hugo
  • Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
  • On the Road by Jack Kerouac
  • The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz
  • The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan
  • The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
  • Through the Window by Julian Barnes
  • What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

On The Road by Jack Kerouac

Posted December 30, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Book of the Month, Classic / 0 Comments

On The Road by Jack KerouacTitle: On The Road (Goodreads)
Author: Jack Kerouac
Published: Penguin, 1957
Pages: 307
Genres: Classic
My Copy: Personal Copy

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

On the Road is a semi autobiographical novel about Jack Kerouac’s travels through America. Set in 1947 the novel documents the travels of Sal Paradise with his friend Dean on a quest of self-knowledge and life experiences. This novel is often considered as the definitive ideal of the Beat generation and living life postwar. The Beat movement is a cultural movement which rejected a normal life for a bohemian lifestyle; this movement inspired jazz, poetry and literature.  The non-conformity and spontaneous creativity as well as experimentation with drugs, alternative sexualities and interest in Eastern religions lead to the hippy movement in the 1960’s even though there are many differences.

On the Road is a novel of friendship, not just between Sal and Dean but the people that come and go from your life. Hitchhiking through America gives an opportunity to see this quickly; Sal meets new people all the time and just like that they are gone from his life; their impact on Sal may very but it really is a good way to show the effects people have without having to scratch a story over a few years. Then there is the friendship between Sal and Dean, it’s clear to me that Sal is idolising his friend and his need to be just like him is really not helping him to grow. Sal does grow through the book but it never feels like Dean has, this really changes the dynamic of their friendship as the book goes on.

This is also a book on the ideals of the beatniks; they are young and wanting to experience life, learn from their experiences. But underneath it all Sal feels unhappy. Either alone, in a relationship or just having casual hook-ups, Sal is never content. The only time I ever feel like Sal is enjoying himself is when he is having intellectual conversations, but he never really works out how to channel that passion to make his life mean something, I did think he would find contentment in writing but he never really does. The characters feel they should learn from life instead of books and this leads more to sex, substance abuse and even madness seem to be the end results of their experiences rather than knowledge.

While some might think this is a rather boring novel, I tend to think there is so much in the book worth exploring. I like the style and feel of this book, it reminds me of dirty realism and the quest for knowledge and satisfaction in life really hit home for me. My past experiences are nothing like those of Sal or Kerouac’s but there is something so real and raw about this book that I enjoyed. Overall it was interesting to read the book as a manifesto to the beat generation.

Monthly Review – November 2012

Posted November 30, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Monthly Reading / 0 Comments

house of leavesNovember has ended and  the holiday season is well on its way. For the people who read House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski, I hope you enjoyed it. Yes. it was a really weird look into post modernism and I know there were a lot of ‘WTF’ moments within this book. But I do hope everyone got something out of it, even if it is just the ability to say, “Yes, I’ve read it”. For me the book was far too pretentious, even if that is normally my thing. I’m glad to have read it, but I don’t think it is something I would read again. There were some interesting discussions about the book, including if the book is a novel or a piece of art.

In December we will be reading the Beat classic; On the Road by Jack Kerouac as part of our Travel theme. This is a relatively short book so I’m sure people will be able to fit it in around all the festivities.

My monthly reading this month might have leaned heavily toward genre fiction but I felt like it was an enjoyable and relaxing month of reading for me, apart from House of Leaves. Highlights for me include Metroland by Julian Barnes, a look into the life of Christopher as he looks over his past and tries to work out if he is happy with his life. I’ve been looking to read another Barnes book for a while and this was well worth it. Then there was The Marriage Plot by Jeffery Eugendies; finally a book where a love triangle is done properly. This was a book of discovery as we watch three interconnected young adults grow into adults.

What have you been reading this month? What are the highlights?

  • Perchance to Dream by Robert B. Parker
  • House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
  • Without Warning by John Birmingham
  • San Miguel by T.C. Boyle
  • Truth by Peter Temple
  • Shadow of the Rock by Thomas Mogford
  • Books: A Memoir by Larry McMurtry
  • Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
  • No Orchids For Miss Blandish by James Hadley Chase
  • The Dirty Streets of Heaven by Tad Williams
  • The Artist as Mystic by Yahia Lababidi
  • Metroland by Julian Barnes
  • The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides