Definitely a product of it’s time and country. Having visited Las Vegas twice now (once I had no choice, once I wanted to see why I’d been taken there), I was interested to see how Thompson saw it. Trouble was, he didn’t really.
This is abuse of the human body on a grand scale. This is excess. This is monumental self-indulgence. And it’s sickening for both reader and writer. The confusion that results for both is also keenly felt.
I wouldn’t want to read this again. Nor would I want to take psychadelic drugs or even visit Vegas. Thompson has made sure of that for me (as if I ever really needed convincing.)
Throughout the book, where Thompson and a colleague go on assignment to conventions in the city, he reflects on life and morality in places. Here’s a typical quote:
In a closed society where everybody’s guilty, the only crime is getting caught.
Interesting quote in a society where everyone’s only guilty once their proven (supposedly) and therefore have already been caught. And this is something Thompson’s missed, entirely missed now: We’ve already been caught. The Bible’s clear on that. It’s not like we’re on the run from an omnipresent God. We’re simply delaying the inevitable if we don’t admit this.
The novel is subtitled the pursuit of the American Dream. This seems more like a nightmare of sorts. It’s not a novel you’d read before bedtime or on holiday. But, if you’re after an idea of how screwed up the minds of many west-coast Americans were in the early 1970s, you’ll get a very good idea from this.
The style and focus on drug culture makes this a dated read now. There’s no way these days you could advocate the kind of drug use that Thompson indulges in. Neither is the style as original as it was. For these reasons, I’m giving it a mediocre rating. If you’re a real lit-drip you might love it.
We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold.
No, this is not a town for pyschadelic drugs. Reality itself is too twisted.
History is hard to know.
I felt like a monster reincarnation of Horatio Alger… a Man on the Move, and just sick enough to be totally confident.
terrible > poor > mediocre > okay > good > very good> excellent > superb