Saturday, December 1, 2007

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Hunter S. Thompson, as we all know, is a crazy, crazy guy. Or, he was. But in his writings, he always will be. It's just hard to determine the truth and fiction though, at times.

I was first introduced to Thompson when the film Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas came out starring Johnny Depp as Thompson. To tell you the truth, I really didn't know what to make of it after I saw it. I had to watch it multiple times afterwards to grasp the storyline, or even any main point in it whatsoever. The story intrigued me, beyond the drug binge that he and his attorney went on for multiple days straight, but the fact that he got away with so many bizarre practices really boggles my mind.

When Thompson died in 2005, it was a really big deal. Rolling Stone ran an issue dedicated to him, partially because he wrote multiple articles for the magazine and heavily contributed to their magazine in his strong writing years. Perhaps they also glorified his life in that issue because he has contributed many brilliant pieces of writing, and he has coined his own literary genre/style of writing: Gonzo. I am just beginning to learn this writing style as I begin to read his works, but I started with what I knew: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

The movie is a straight-forward retelling of the book, and I like that. Many movies that originate from books basically adapt the book into movie form, changing and abidging the book's version. Fear and Loathing, however, basically tells the story verbatim, only leaving out tiny sections that really didn't have a place in the film anyway. Parts of the books are even read aloud through Depp's narration through the film, so it's like I already had an insight into the book before I even began reading it.

His crisp and crazy writing style is unique and very easy to follow. Even though he talks about his bizarre experiences that perhaps the audience can't even begin to fathom (i.e. bats flying down at him from the sky in the middle of the desert as a result of an ether/mescaline binge), he recreates it so we can see it and feel it ourselves. That kind of talent is so powerful, for we can begin to understand a fraction of what it was like to be such a rebellious dare-devil that he was. As Hunter says himself, "There is nothing in the world more helpless and irresponsible and depraved than a man in the depths of an ether binge." Yikes.

One thing I like about the book is the contribution of sketches from Ralph Steadman, a friend of Thompson's. I will randomly insert them throughout the blog post to show you how much this man captured the visions and stories from the book itself.

I do want to point out that, after reading this book, I minorly researched his life, discovering some fascinating things that I will tell later once I read Gonzo. Despite being a drunk at an early age, crazed with drugs, leaving the Air Force, and living in Puerto Rico for a few years, Thompson was determined to being something extraordinary. He wanted to be a writer from an early age and even wanted to become something as large as Hemingway or Fitzgerald. Thus, he typed out The Great Gatsby and A Farewell to Arms on a typewriter to physically get the feel of how they wrote and what it felt like to write very well. I wonder how effective this strategy is, but I find it fascinating to see the angle he took and the drive he had early on.

Soon, The Rum Diaries starring Johnny Depp will come out, retelling another smaller book created by Thompson himself. Another film, Where the Buffalo Roam, also depicts Hunter's life, this time acted by Bill Murray in 1980. Definitely need to check that out.

Fear and Loathing originally was a two-part article that appeared in Rolling Stone, which is really cool. Thompson said he was searching for the American Dream, in Vegas--ironic? The title actually appears with the book as well, "A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream." Hm. He took drugs the entire time, perhaps trying to escape being a human and really finding the American Dream. The American Dream, in this book, seems to be more of a joke as they have extreme difficulty finding it, engaging in drug binges to get there. Can anyone really discover the American Dream? Do we really live it?

Also, Thompson definitely exposes the hippie/drug culture of the 60s through his travels, while also showing us the reaction from the public. He is ultimately trying to escape reality and living in general. He even introduces this quotation from Dr. Johnson at the beginning of the book: "He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man." How much more do I need to elaborate from that quotation? It seems pretty self-explanatory from my previous rant...

What are your reactions to Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, even if it is just a reaction from seeing the movie? What do you think the point is? Do you love it or hate it (I can definitely see a polar reaction to this piece of work)? Is it too incohesive? Details!

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