Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson

Title: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Author: Hunter S. Thompson
Published: 1971
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 204
Rating: **1/2
fear and loathing     Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is the best chronicle of drug-soaked, addle-brained, rollicking good times ever committed to the printed page. It is also the tale of a long weekend road trip that has gone down in the annals of American pop culture as one of the strangest journeys ever undertaken. (from Goodreads)


Thoughts: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is a book told as if it is an autobiography by Raoul Duke, the narrator. A journalist living in Los Angeles, he is assigned to cover the Mint 400 motorcycle race held in the desert outside of Las Vegas. With his Samoan attorney, Dr. Gonzo, and a red convertible full of drugs and alcohol, he covers the race in a drug induced haze and, later, covers The National District Attorney’s Association’s Third National Institute  on Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs also taking place in Las Vegas. Through the mist of it all they search for the American Dream, consume a truly astonishing amount of drugs, and party in Vegas to such an extent that it is almost impossible to believable.
     The novel is loosely based on two trips that Thompson with an attorney to Las Vegas as a journalist, including being present for the National District Attorney’s Conference on Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs. A large part of the novel blends Thompson’s own experience with the on-goings of his characters; this blending of fact and fiction has come to be known as gonzo journalism, presumably after Dr. Gonzo.
     Unfortunately for me, this novel failed to hit the mark. A lot of this novel consists of the characters taking drugs, hallucinating, and participating in increasingly outrageous behavior at the expense of unsuspecting locals and tourists. My main complaint isn’t the drug use, which seems to occur for no reason other than to simply take drugs for the sake of taking drugs, instead my main problem is with the characters themselves. There seems to be no redeeming qualities whatsoever in either of them.With their constant lying and tricks they play on passerbyers, I disliked them more than I liked them. The last straw was about two-thirds through the book with what happened with Lucy, Dr. Gonzo for his actions, and Duke with his uncaring response on hearing what occurred and the disgusting suggestions about her he tells Dr. Gonzo about. By the end of the book I ended up hating them and thinking ‘what was the point?’ about the entire story. Maybe Thompson’s point is that there is no point, I don’t know. But what I do know is that, for me, this book left me feeling flat and empty, and not in a good way. The lack of this book evoking any emotion in me except confusion, disgust, and dislike was disappointing. However I am still glad that I read it as it seems to be fairy popular and well-known. If anyone has read this book and enjoyed it, could you tell me what you liked about it?

If you’ve read this book, what are your thoughts?


About hillarypat

I'm a recent college graduate and this is my blog where I talk about whatever happens to be on my mind- mostly books!
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10 Responses to Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson

  1. severalfourmany says:

    I think you have pretty much got it. The confusion, disgust, dislike and disappointment are exactly what Thompson was trying to get to.

    You are not supposed to like the characters. Like Becky Sharp in Vanity Fair (or pick your favorite Dostoevsky, Faulkner, Camus, Celine, DeLillo, Nabakov novel) we are simultaneously repulsed and amused. The repulsion makes a commentary on something nasty, wretched or evil; the amusement makes it possible to continue reading. The difference here is that Thompson, the supposed author, becomes the thing he despises and lives it to show its empty hypocrisy. That’s the “gonzo” part and it can be a bit confusing if you think you are supposed to empathize with the author or agree with him.

    It is a lot like Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. Thompson typed out the entire novel on his typewriter to better understand it’s style. Like Gatsby, and most of Thompson’s writing, this is about the “death of the American Dream” a constant theme in his work. In this particular case it is about how the aspirations of the 1960’s give way to the disillusionment of the 70’s. It is a parody of 1960’s counterculture, particularly Kerouac’s On the Road which it resembles in many ways. Instead of watching and commenting from the outside (as in Gatsby) the author embeds himself in the culture he critiques. He shows that “turn on, tune in, drop out” is not the road to enlightenment but a self-serving justification for “a generation of permanent cripples who never understood the essential fallacy of the Acid Culture.”

    So, the disgust is well placed. The hope is that while you were disgusted you also found some parts funny, amusing or at least comically absurd. At least enough to keep you reading and thinking about the disgust, where it came from, and why.

    • hillarypat says:

      Thank you so much for this comment! It has really been helpful as I try to process this novel. I’m glad that I was right about the disgust perhaps being intentional. Although I confess that I do not know much about the 60s counterculture, this book gave me a lot to think about. I’ve not read On the Road yet, although I have been meaning to. My sister recently read it and loved it. It’s good to know that this book is a parody of On the Road; I’ll keep this in mind when I finally get around to reading it! Now that you bring it up I do see some similarities between this book and the Great Gatsby, which is a book I’ve been meaning to reread for some time. Again, thanks so much for this comment, it has really has really enlightened some aspects of the book for me and helped me to structure my thoughts.

      • severalfourmany says:

        On re-reading, the parts that are so wicked funny are all mocking the 1960’s Kerouac/Cassidy/Kesey/Leary counterculture with parodies of scenes and situations from On the Road, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test and The Further Inquiry–taking them to exaggerated extremes.
        However, what I found most disturbing was that it did not seem dated. If you merely change the many musical (Dylan, Beatles, Rolling Stone) political (SDS, Nixon, Agnew) literary (Ginsberg, Leary, Kesey) and cultural (La Honda, Altamont, Woodstock) references this could have been written yesterday. The style and tone are not that different from any recent Thomas Pynchon or David Foster Wallace novel. In fact it no longer even seems extreme. Thompson’s hyperbolic experiment in Gonzo journalism has, in the forty years since he wrote it, become entirely mainstream. This kind of participatory excess has become daily staple of Reality TV.

  2. TBM says:

    I haven’t read it, but I think it’s on my 1001 list. I’ve avoided it for so many years since I don’t think it’s my cup of tea. But who knows, maybe it will surprise me. It sounds like I need to be in the right mood to read it.

    • hillarypat says:

      This book really wasn’t my thing. I didn’t really know what to expect, perhaps if I did I would have liked it better. I think being in the right mood would really help when reading this. I jumping back and forth between this book and Bleak House which was strange!

  3. Thompson has influenced the past few generations with his invention of Gonzo Journalism. The Good Doctor broke the mold on writing and changed the world and the voice of counter-culture. His work and antics will live on to influence even more generations to come. I paid tribute to Hunter S Thompson and his work with my portrait and article on my artist’s blog at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot.com/2011/02/in-memoriam-hunter-s-thompson.html

    • severalfourmany says:

      Clearly you are a fan. What is the appeal of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas for you? What did you learn from it, or how are you different having read it?

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