Upon reading Hunter S. Thompson’s book “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream,” one may occasionally feel the need to question one’s sobriety with all the layers of insanity Thompson’s creation falls into. The drug-fueled and hallucination-laced tale seems as though it could be shallow — on the surface appearing to be focused on drugs and the pursuit of the next high — but instead has incredible depth in its reflections on the meaning of aspiring to realize the self-made American nightmare.
The story follows Raoul Duke and his lawyer in the early 1970s as the duo venture to Las Vegas to cover the Mint 400 motorcycle race in a red convertible he fondly calls “the Shark.” However, they have packed enough drugs to make Duke’s journalism coverage difficult to accomplish. Their arsenal includes a jug of ether, a salt shaker of cocaine and sheets of blotter acid, among other various “medicines.” In the depth of their various waves of drug use, Duke and his lawyer experience encounters with reptilian people and the ugliness of America. While they are in Sin City, neon lights blind, excess in every form overwhelms, and the police are around every corner.
Thompson famously blurs the lines of reality, and does so with rapid-fire language that vividly recreates the experiences of his characters have in their various non-sober states. The setting of Las Vegas perfectly places his tale in the midst of the American ideals that he degrades throughout “Fear and Loathing.” Consumerism is spat upon, material items are destroyed and Thompson’s book plants seeds in the reader’s mind that cannot be unsown.