...This is Hunter S Thompson's countercultural classic 1973 non-ficition novel. Originally serialised in Rolling Stone and often written under the influence of mind-altering chemicals or booze (which Thompson injected into his chest), "Fear And Loathing..." is a powerful, funny and forceful assault on American culture and values. Ostenibly taking the viewpoint of one Raoul Duke- a thinly disguised HST-, a journalist assigned to covering a a desert race in Las Vegas, the book gives us a brilliant insight into the American culture of 1970s. Many who review the book draw attention to the protagonist's drug abuse, however this really secondary to the book and quite harmless when you consider he uses mainly psychedelics rather than powerful, habit-forming substances like heroin.
Accompained by his obese Samoan attorney- HST's mate and missing Hispanic loon, Oscar Acosta- the book follows Duke's wild adventures in the joyless pleasuredomes of Las Vegas. Duke's real purpose is to search for the American Dream and find it in physical form, he hopes he will achieve this aim in Las Vegas. However, he knows that Las Vegas is a corrupt and filthy place and that the American Dream does not actually exist.
Thompson is a master of bringing absurd comedy out of a situation and his visceral exposures of the stupidity and idiocy of the Las Vegas people and workers are hilarious. He also brilliantly dissects and informs us about the failures of the Nixon administration and the shame and pity of living in the world after the glory of the 1960s.
The influence of Fear and Loathing echoes in the work of numerous journalists and writers- Will Self. Easton Ellis, the fella who wrote Fight Club- who are by comparison mere imitators.
It is easy to forget, in the fallout of his suicide and the confusion of the adaptation, the brilliance of Hunter S Thompson: his wit, power, brutality and acerbity. He escapes easy caterogorisation and labelling to create a voice and a sense of individuality unique in writing. He specified in his own notes for the book that we should read it drunk and to the accompaniment of loud, violent music. In this violent mix, we can still hear the author's voice raving on with candour and wit like a debauched and intoxicated uncle.
To read Fear and Loathing, and to observe the cartoons of Ralph Steadman, is truly to experience something entirely new and different, HST's voice is one you will recognise and agree with without being preached to and you will doubtless appreciate the sheer power of his work. People complain of his alcoholism, anger and failure to repeat his success, but, ultimately, when you hold this book in your hands, none of that really matters. He changed the way we view our leaders and our contrymen. And he did it all drunk. For that alone, he deserves applause.
A true testament to the importance of rebellion.