Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson

Why I Read It: My better half has been recommending it for years.

Where I Got It: Library download.

Who I Recommend This To: Those interested in the drug culture.

Narrator: Ron McLarty

Publisher: Recorded Books (2005)

Length: ~6 hours

Most people probably know this book better from the related film of the same name starring Johnny Depp. I guess it would be sufficient to say that this book is a fictionalized autobiographical account of a drug binge in Las Vegas in 1971 by Hunter S. Thompson and his friend/lawyer. Thompson’s character has several aliases throughout the book, which serve his sometimes-correct paranoid need to avoid some kind of law enforcement or others seeking accountability from him. He’s a journalist, initially sent out there to cover a big car race and later requested to stay to cover a drug law enforcement conference.

The book started off interesting, with a catalog of drugs in a car with two guys heading from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. Thompson is hallucinating about bats, very large bats. Then they pick up a hitchhiker and freak him out with their paranoid talk – or were they talking out loud? Once at Las Vegas they go from hotel to hotel abusing people, staff, customers, inanimate objects, themselves. It goes on in this vein the entire book.

In honesty, I never got into the drug scene, though I did more than my fair share of alcohol in college. Some of the things in this book, I understood (such as the lack of interest in things and people going on around you except in relation to your addiction of choice) while other things I just did not get (like the range and depth of mental alteration brought on by the drugs). With that said, I did not particularly enjoy this book though I do believe it captured the essence of drug addiction taken to the edge. In particular, there is reference to the lawyer picking up a young woman, taking her back to his room, inviting her to enjoy a mix of drugs and alcohol, and then using her for sex. While the scene itself is never covered in depth, the reaction by the lawyer and Thompson – dodging any kind of responsibility for harming another being, on purpose, for pleasure alone – pretty much got the point across. The only thing you care about are the drugs/personal pleasure – and it is the same for anyone else hanging out with you. Not only are you bad company, you are hanging out with bad company who do not care about you. Given the opportunity, your friends would sell your belongs, hair, blood, body for their drugs.

Our narrator Ron McLarty had a variety of annoying voices for the characters (they felt a bit exaggerated). I had a hard time imagining these Los Angeles residents talking with the accents they were granted by the narrator; again, in honesty, I never heard Thompson talk so these voices may be spot on. However, with that said, McLarty kept the characters separate and true through out the book, with a variety of female and male voices for the minor characters.

What I Liked: Fast-paced; captured how the 2 main characters think they are being clever; captured the obliviousness to personal hygiene by the drug-addled.

What I Disliked: I’m not sure what the point was to this book and I fear it was the glamorization of the drug culture – kind of a Free Spirit idea gone sickly green with pustules.

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