I just finished reading Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas yesterday. It’s super fun and easy to get through, a wild roller-coaster ride of insane, paranoid delusions and hallucinations on psychedelic drugs, ether and booze. I saw the movie ages ago so knew what to expect. I’d never read anything by Hunter S. Thompson before, but if even half of this gonzo story is true, he was completely insane, which explains why he liked playing with guns so much and always knew that one day he would take his own life with one, which he did in 2005, when he said life stopped being fun for him. But he really was a great writer, and this book is hilarious. The entire premise from the get-go is completely absurd: being sent to Las Vegas to find the American Dream by covering a dirt-bike race? What? But then it changes to him of all people having to report on a police narcotics convention with his attorney, who, like him, was out of his mind and, in real life, probably just a figment of Thompson’s wild imagination.
Anyway, I’m glad I finally got around to reading it, as it wasn’t just funny as hell by virtue of his and his attorney’s paranoid, drug-addled minds, insane antics, preposterous conversations and very interesting past stories that Thompson would recall, but also because of his insight into the strange world of Las Vegas and the drug scene of 1971 in comparison to what it was in San Francisco before the heights of it came to an end:
"Strange memories on this nervous night in Las Vegas. Five years later? Six? It seems like a lifetime, or at least a Main Era—the kind of peak that never comes again. San Francisco in the middle sixties was a very special time and place to be a part of. Maybe it meant something. Maybe not, in the long run . . . but no explanation, no mix of words or music or memories can touch that sense of knowing that you were there and alive in that corner of time and the world. Whatever it meant. . . .
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.
My central memory of that time seems to hang on one or five or maybe forty nights—or very early mornings—when I left the Fillmore half-crazy and, instead of going home, aimed the big 650 Lightning across the Bay Bridge at a hundred miles an hour wearing L. L. Bean shorts and a Butte sheepherder's jacket . . . booming through the Treasure Island tunnel at the lights of Oakland and Berkeley and Richmond, not quite sure which turn-off to take when I got to the other end (always stalling at the toll-gate, too twisted to find neutral while I fumbled for change) . . . but being absolutely certain that no matter which way I went I would come to a place where people were just as high and wild as I was: No doubt at all about that. . . .
There was madness in any direction, at any hour. If not across the Bay, then up the Golden Gate or down 101 to Los Altos or La Honda. . . . You could strike sparks anywhere. There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning. . . .
And that, I think, was the handle—that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn't need that. Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting—on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave. . . .
So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark—that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back." - the end of Part One's eighth chapter
My rating: FIVE STARS