Monday, 7 January 2013

'Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream' by Hunter S. Thompson

I was in a grubby student house somewhere around Englefield Green on the edge of the Surrey/Berkshire border when the drugs began to take hold. I remember saying to my housemate something like “I feel a bit lightheaded; maybe you should type. . . .” And suddenly there was a terrible roar all around us and the room was full of what looked like South London parakeets, all swooping and screeching and diving around. And a voice was screaming: “Holy Jesus! What are these goddamn animals?”

Then it was silent again and I could just hear the colours. All was well. I looked around and was instantly blinded by the intense light of the computer screen in front of me. But it was okay - my sight returned shortly after. It was almost noon, and we still had a few hundred words to go. They would be tough words. Very soon, I knew, we would both be extremely twisted. But there was no going back, and no time to rest. We must ride it out and write this review. The submission period for the website was already underway, and we had to get there by midnight to claim our right to be published. 
I asked my housemate if he was ready for the task ahead but he simply grinned and continued to conjure patterns from the billowing purple smoke of the stick of incense burning slowly on the desk. I knew this may well have had to be a one-man job ‘till I managed to pull this moron back from whatever dimension he was hiding in. I began to type.

I’m picking up Good Vibrations. She’s giving me excitations. No! No! You fool! That’s just the music playing! I quit thinking so loudly - or speaking? I snapped back into this grim, grey, grizzly twenty-first century reality and began to write the review. The plot of ‘Fear and Loathing’ is simply that in 1972, a journalist and his attorney travel to The Fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada to report on a dirt bike race called the Mint 400. However, the pair of aging hippies stuck firmly in mid-1960s San Francisco, decide to see the trip as the perfect opportunity for a drug binge of mammoth proportions. They head across the desert in an oversized red Chevy sedan, a mechanical icon of the free-spirited, anything is possible, America of the 1960s, fired up on mescaline, marijuana, acid, ether, and tequila like the great American liberal thinkers of that decade. They soon get to Las Vegas - a physical representation of the sin, greed, and excess left over after the death of the ‘60s American dream that promised peace and love. The only aspect of those golden years they are able to hold onto is the heavy use of psychoactive drugs. However, they soon discover that using those drugs, that reminded them of their fondest years, in a place that serves as the polar opposite of the desired effect and no longer accepts them, results in terrifying consequences. Everybody is disgusted by them and scared of them. They are outcasts on hard drugs with hordes of people staring at them. Their paranoia must have been insane. They literally see businesspeople as giant lizard monsters in suits, relishing human blood and enjoying an orgy. They come across a crowd of cops at a hotel police conference on Illegal Drugs. They decide to attend the conference as ambassadors of the drug-taking community and go to see hundreds of cops nod and shout in agreement at a presentation of astoundingly inaccurate anti-marijuana propaganda. Eventually it all becomes too much: their corrupted new society rejects them, and they fall deep into the dreaded fear. When they return to grim, grey, grizzly reality, they decide to escape Vegas, the heart of the true American Dream. As the journalist is leaving he shouts at two marines - symbols of the a more oppressing society: “God’s mercy on you swine!” He finally comments that he “felt like a monster reincarnation of Horatio Alger . . . a Man on the Move, and just sick enough to be totally confident.” He chooses the fear and loathing over the harsh reality.

“It’s the same today,” insisted my housemate. How long had he been watching me type? Was that a parakeet on his shoulder? No, of course not. “We’ve got ridiculous world debt, poverty, religious terrorism, political corruption, propaganda, a flawed legal system... What’s the difference?”
“The difference is, my good housemate, that we were never promised anything better. All promises of a better world were forgotten before we were born. By the time we came along, this was already considered the norm. All is relative.” I explained. I then recited an Oasis lyric: “I lost my faith in the summertime, ‘cos it don’t stop raining. The sky all day is as black as night, but I’m not complaining.” 
“But I guess we still have those educated, liberal thinkers.” My housemate wondered aloud. 
“Yes,” I began, “and those intellectual thinkers are again, the ones who take the drugs, are open-minded, challenge the unjust policies of the government, and keep fighting the good fight for peace, love, and fun in a world that is closing in on itself. And one day, they too, perhaps, will face the decision to submit to reality or continue in a world of fear and loathing.”
“I love it when you can make comparison between art of another era and the present day.” My housemate bluntly informed me. He was slowly transporting himself to another state of being so I told him to compile a list of all the old works of art he could think of that could be compared to today’s society. This would keep him focused. Starting to change. Yeah. . . Can’t let anyone see us or they’ll report us at once to some kind of outback nazi law enforcement agency, and they’ll run us down like dogs.

Review by Brad St.Ledger

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