So today I want to review 'Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas' by Hunter S.Thompson.
I want to begin with a simple overview of the plot and the overarching themes of this novel. It would be simple to just say that it is a chaotic, unfurling mess with drugs and other such dominating the plot. No, that would underestimate the genius that Hunter S.Thompson is. He carefully uses some of his real life experiences against a fictional backdrop to create this surreal trip. Controversially I prefer the film with Johnny Depp over the novel. I'll get into this later.
So the narrative focuses on Raoul Duke and his attorney, Dr Gonzo. Duke has been sent out to write an article on the Mint 400 motorcycle race. However, this simple goal of the protagonist soon descends into a spiral of drugs and bizarre hallucinations, where the reader soon begins to find it hard to decipher between real and drug fuelled. There are some moments I really enjoyed with this narrative, particularity the vivid descriptions and wild imagery that is reflected throughout. This is all mastered by the quirky illustrations that are littered throughout the novel, illustrated by Ralph Steadman. You don't quite expect them, so when you turn a page to find one there it comes as a surprise.
Indeed, this is novel that soon became known to define 'Gonzo Journalism', a surreal style where the true and fictitious are blended together to create such work. Thompson utilizes this to the extreme, as mentioned the novel encompasses this. I'm not sure if this sort of style of writing is really to my taste, If I were to strongly critique this novel, it would be in the style,I found it too brash, too loud, too chaotic to really picture myself with this characters. I like to be grounded in the story, to feel the lives of the characters- I'm sure there are others like me. Please be others like me or I will loose my sanity.
The novel is quite short, only at 204 pages, so you could most likely read it in an afternoon. It's not an easy read though and you do need to pay attention, or you'll find yourself lost within Thompson's complex narrative. Reading this novel is like turning up the television screen to full contrast, everything is bright and illuminated, but it can also be a bit of a headache. That's why when it comes to reading this, I would say stretch it over a few days to really get the full experience Thompson is aiming to give his readers.
Now as promised, on to the film. I saw the film first over the book, which is something I normally scald against. In all honesty, I had no idea that this was even a book until I saw it in passing at HMV. So after watching the visually stunning film, I wanted to read the book to find out the raw source, and what made the film so memorable. That was back in ... 2013? Oops! The reason I started reading the book two years later, was simply because I just didn't have any interest in reading it.
I think that's the thing about reading, a painter will find it hard to leave a piece of work that has just been started. Yet, a reader will often flit between several different books, which is my case is what happened with 'Fear and Loathing' . Even though I saw the film a while ago now, it has remained in my memory, these bright, stark images with washes of colour and that accent of Depp's all adds to the conclusive result. The book however, left me washed out more than anything. The film left me hanging on to something, some sort of legacy almost, but the book just didn't scar anything on my brain. If I go back and watch the film I might feel different. So my opinion may be slightly bias, I will update this post though if I do watch the film again!
I think with 'Fear and Loathing' the best thing to do is read the book first, and then watch the film to gain a true understanding of Thompson's vision. Please let me know if you have had the same experience as me!