Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Books: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

When I admitted to having seen the movie but not having read the book, my friends who watched Gonzo with me swallowed their sighs of disappointment and lent me the darned thing, which I pushed through in a couple of days. I really don't know why I'd never read any Hunter S.; I've read tons of Tom Wolfe; I've read On the Road and tons of Henry Miller and Naked Lunch and all kinds of other assorted 1950-1970 drug/beat/sex/etc. literature. I guess Thompson never appealed to me because he came a little late to the game, after the party had already wound down and there wasn't any fun in it anymore. Of which scenario he is very aware.

My digression here is that the movie, which I watched a few years before instating this blog, was so artistically true to Thompson's writing and Steadman's amazing drawings that reading the book simply made me see the movie in mind's eye (this happened to me with The Virgin Suicides, but I'd seen that movie countless times, and this movie only once). There's no question that Thompson is incredibly evocative (I think more than provocative—this is still just a children's bedtime story compared with Naked Lunch), terribly incisive, and always has the precisely right string of words. When he's ready to, he cuts to the bone, because he writes what he feels, not just what he thinks (this is what separates him from Wolfe, who also writes very much from within a scene, but who also manages to constantly maintain a slight intellectual detachment from his subjects. Thompson is his subject(s).)

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