Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas
Author: Hunter S. Thompson
Original Release: November 1971
“We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold.”
This is quite possibly my favorite opening sentence from a novel, and it sets the tone for the drug-addled adventure that is Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas. The story is an exaggerated account of Hunter S. Thompson’s pursuit of the American Dream in Las Vegas. Accompanied by “Dr. Gonzo,” his faithful attorney, Thompson (as Raoul Duke) is initially sent out to Vegas to report on the off road race known as the Mint 400. However, this work is quickly scrapped in favor of just getting blitzed and then becoming involved in random bizarre adventures.
Fear and Loathing is absolutely hilarious, and is certainly one of the funniest books I have ever read. Duke and his attorney find themselves in some very precarious situations. On their ride into Vegas in the “Great Red Shark” (their rented red Chevy convertible), they pick up a hitchhiker who quickly becomes scared shitless by their drug-induced craze. In Vegas, Dr. Gonzo brings a Jesus and Barbara Streisand loving innocent young girl back to their hotel room, where he proceeds to give her acid (when she had never even gotten high before). There is also an extremely amusing encounter with a hotel maid who stumbles into their room when both Duke and his attorney are stark naked. The dialogue is just incredible here, and Thompson’s unique way of writing makes everything even more entertaining.
As mentioned earlier, there is a lot of drug use in this book. The characters are frequently in a state of paranoia because of this, and often see some ridiculous hallucinations (which are brought to life by Ralph Steadman’s amazing illustrations). Just read their drug haul that they brought with them to Vegas:
“We had two bags of grass, seventy-five pellets of mescaline, five sheets of high powered blotter acid, a salt shaker half full of cocaine, and a whole galaxy of multi-colored uppers, downers, screamers, laughers… and also a quart of tequila, a quart of rum, a case of Budweiser, a pint of raw ether and two dozen amyls.
Not that we needed all that for the trip, but once you get locked into a serious drug collection, the tendency is to push it as far as you can.”
If you think that sounds insane, well, you are absolutely right! Some people are turned off from this book because of the drug binges, but if you do so you are missing out on a wildly entertaining and witty novel that also indulges in biting satire. I have lent my copy of this book out to many friends and family members, all of whom have also loved this. Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas is one of my favorite books of all time, a rare novel that I can read over and over again without losing interest. If you are able, pick up the Modern Library version of the book, which also comes with two of Thompson’s short stories. I cannot recommend this book enough!