by Hunter S. Thompson (Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2005)
I was a little intimidated at the thought of starting this book, and yet again I was overjoyed to find that I am, in fact, a grown up after all and can handle a cult classic with the best of 'em. I don't know why it's such a surprise really, because so often when I've been daunted by a book I've found my fears to be completely unfounded.
Anyway. This book is mad. Funny, chaotic and mad. I can see why it made such a good film, and why
This is a time when the American Dream is falling apart. When money talks, the power of the masses is seeping away, 'consciousness expanding' drugs are disappearing from fashionable circles, and flower power is transforming into something darker, dirtier and a whole lot more seedy. At the heart of the book, Raoul Duke (Thompson's persona), his attorney and a very nice Red Shark convertible loaded with a medley of dangerous substances coast through conventions and rallies, bars and casinos, seeking the remnants of the American Dream and getting amazingly loaded along the way. Part 1 is about their 'coverage' (I use the term loosely) of the Mint 400 race in the Nevada desert, and Part 2 documents their return to Las Vegas to gatecrash the National District Attorneys' Conference on Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (there might be samples!).
It's always difficult to describe and review such a crazy book, so instead I'll just say that it's pretty damn brilliant. It made me chortle aloud plenty of times, yet also had some quite poignant and downright repulsive moments that brought home the futility of their search for meaning, and the decidedly less-than-glamorous world a junkie inhabits. Mostly though, it was the best kind of farcical comedy - funny, ridiculous, outrageous, gutsy and I never quite knew what was going to happen next!
P.S. My Harper Perennial copy also has a handy section at the back with a short biography of Hunter Thompson, a little about the book and film, and some notes on Gonzo journalism. Very helpful! :)
- "Every now and then when your life gets complicated and the weasels start closing in, the only real cure is to load up on heinous chemicals and then drive like a bastard from Hollywood to Las Vegas."
- "Who are these people? These faces! Where do they come from? They look like caricatures of used-car dealers from Dallas. But they're real. And, sweet Jesus, there are a hell of a lot of them - still screaming around these desert-city crap tables at four-thirty on a Sunday morning. Still humping the American dream, that vision of the Big Winner somehow emerging from the last-minute pre-dawn chaos of a stale Vegas casino."
- "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 fine flash, for reasons that nobody really understands at the time - and which never explain, in retrospect, what actually happened."
- "It was treacherous, stupid and demented in every way - but there was no avoiding the stench of twisted humor that hovered around the idea of a gonzo journalist in the grip of a potentially terminal drug episode being invited to cover the Nation District Attorneys' Conference on Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs."
- "I was so far beyond simple fatigue that I was beginning to feel nicely adjusted to the idea of permanent hysteria. I felt like the slightest misunderstanding with the stewardess would cause me to either cry or go mad..."
Source: I bought this book during a flying visit to Waterstones in Chesterfield.