photo & text by nacrowe
i know people get caught up in the drugs culture immaculately encapsulated in HUNTER S. THOMPSON's epic FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS (RANDOM HOUSE, 1971). and for good reason, its a legendary book that practically celebrates the liberating aspects of "expert" drug use in a pre-crack world before gangs and professionalized cartels, foreign and domestic, trafficked in and ravaged the urban landscape ablaze with SENSELESS VIOLENCE and PROFITEERING. for me the real freedom in this modern day ODYSSEUS epic series of travels, both external and internal, real and manufactured, as experienced in the character of RAOUL DUKE is in the writing.
HUNTER S. THOMPSON is a singular writer along the lines of his heroes ERNEST HEMINGWAY and F. SCOTT FITZGERALD. in this narrative he channels the naivety and abandon of the 60s counterculture while simultaneously critiquing the straight world for its procedures, deadlines and responsibility and the PSYCHIC DEATH therein. i appreciate the fact that THOMPSON abandoned a discernible character arc with a no lessons really learned, more a series of experiences and situations with no goals or sense of resolution or knowledge gained.
in lieu of no discernible character arc or traditional plot resolution it would not be correct to state that there is no action, my understanding is that it is all internal. as a reader we are led into the mind of a character that is on the verge of psychosis, the string linking his INTERNAL and EXTERNAL REALITIES being breached and reconfigured. we are led to question our understanding of this world through the eyes of a classic unreliable narrator, except maybe in this warped world the perception of drug fiend is how we can see things clearly for what they are. DUKE's hallucinations of bats and casino lounge lizards mating on full display are maybe harbingers of true existential threats where our fellow sentient beings are out to club and devour each other as the natural order has ad infinitum.
for me these hallucinations dovetail with my understand of the nature of literature, wherein an author's writings are cosmically transmogrified in our mind to create visions and understandings that are palatable yet wholly ephemeral. in essence the written word creates hallucinations and our interpretations of such create meaning. this is very much on display when THOMPSON at the conclusion of FEAR AND LOATHING muses about where the trajectory of his beloved generation went and how its psychic energy crested and receded, only to leave its memory imprinted on those who were there. much like our experience reading this novel.
one of my favorite books of all time. its depth, tone and inventive use of language has had me revisit it several times since engulfing it the summer before my freshman year of high school. highly recommended.