"We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold." It is with this famous line that Hunter S. Thompson opens his most heralded work, Fear andNick Christenson is widely regarded as one of the best gambling book reviewers publishing today. He is a contributor for Poker Player magazine, and has published in Full-Tilt and Gambling Times. He is also the editor of the very funny 'Casino Death Watch,' which chronicles the comings and goings of casinos in Las Vegas. He is an avid poker and blackjack player. Nick's website is www.jetcafe.org/~npc/ Loathing in Las Vegas. When I heard that the great Dr. Gonzo himself had died it occurred to me that I had never gotten around to writing a review of his magnum opus. On this occasion it seems fitting that I do so.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is widely considered to be the pinnacle of Thompson's writing. The book successfully combines widely disparate genres, at the same time a narrative trip report, vibrant fiction, and incisive social commentary. Thompson captures the spirit of place and time as perfectly as has Twain, Fitzgerald, Steinbeck, or any other American author.
At its most superficial level, Fear and Loathing is the chronicle of a magazine writer and his attorney traveling to Las Vegas to cover a motorcycle race and law enforcement convention. During their adventures, the two take massive amounts of mind and body altering chemicals, repeatedly discharge powerful firearms, drive much faster than is safe, and generally violate every law and social convention imaginable. The book is beautifully and sureally illustrated by Thompson collaborator Ralph Steadman adding emphasis to a tale that the author himself would call "savage and twisted".
Underneath this adrenaline-charged veneer, however, lies an insightful commentary about the nature of the United States in the early 70s. The Vietnam War was at its height, Nixon was in the White House, and the counter-culture movements of the 60s had already peaked and were beginning to realize that they were in decline. At this time an enormous vacuum had emerged in the middle of society with everyone on the fringes coasting listlessly on the inertia of the previous decade. In his book, Thompson doesn't describe this void, he defines it by riding its boundaries, making it apparent to an audience that hadn't noticed its existence.
Las Vegas has changed a great deal since 1971, and much like any place that can serve as a worthy muse, there are many facets to this remarkable city. One cannot fully understand this magnificent place, though, without being able to see it through the eyes of Hunter Thompson. He recognized earlier than most why it was that Las Vegas exemplifies the American dream, both in its glory and its imperfections. Las Vegas is alternately about magnificence and superficiality, honesty and baseness, hope and despair. All of this complexity is captured in Thompson's book.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is not intended to be a pretty picture of the world, or even an accurate one. It is the literary equivalent of both a cubist and surrealist painting. We are shown not only the hidden angles of the subjects of Thompson's stories, but the insides as well, blurred through the lens of fictionalizations and the author's consumption of powerful narcotics. The goal of Thompson's style of "gonzo journalism" was not to present truth through objective reporting, but to provide a visceral experience of the subject matter by describing the author's direct involvement in the story. This was distinctly subjective, but in many ways no less a true accounting.
Thompson may be gone, but his work will continue to motivate writers for years to come. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is his masterwork, a startling, stark description of a nation that collectively stands confused at a crossroads, aimlessly meandering toward the future. It's an outstanding, ground breaking piece of literature, and I could not recommend it more highly.
ReadyBetGo! is an independent gambling news and information service. If you plan to play in casinos, ensure
that you are not breaking any local laws. It's up to you to know the legality of your actions when you gamble.