Essay, Pages 3 (689 words)
If there’s a story that I wish we had read during the course of the semester it would be from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter Thompson. I believe that the class missed out on what would have a very entertaining reading. My T.A., Sara Phifer, told our discussion section that Thompson was heavily and directly influenced by Allen Ginsburg and the beat style. I told her that it wasn’t too much of a stretch for me to believe but the main difference to me was that Thompson was actually funny.
Tom Wolfe called Hunter Thompson “the great comedic writer of the 20th Century” and considered him “as being in the tradition of Mark Twain.” Like Ginsburg, Thompson’s style was unique and his characters seemed to come from another world. The imagination and creativity that Thompson possessed is truly something to behold. From the very first line in the Norton Anthology the reader is introduced to a world being described as “The Circus is what the whole hep world would be doing on Saturday if the Nazi’s had won the war.
This is the Sixth Reich” (E 2492). Immediately wondering what in the world is going on, the reader is transferred to an existence that is real but part imaginary as well. It’s an alternative existence to be sure. The narrator is observing “the gambling tables the Forty Flying Carazito Brothers are doing a high-wire trapeze act, along with four muzzled Wolverines and the Six Nymphet Sisters from San Diego” (E 2492).
If things couldn’t get more bizarre “right smack above your head is a half-naked fourteen year-old girl being chased through the air by a snaring wolverine, which is locked in a death battle with two silver-painted Polacks who come swinging down from the opposite balconies and meet mid-air on the wolverine’s neck” (E2492-2493). It ends when “the Polacks seize the animal as they fall straight down towards the crap tables” (E 2493).
His style was called Gonzo. That kind of says it all. The craziness that characterizes Thompson’s writing is like a fast car that grabs the reader and doesn’t let go until screeching to a halt. Even when it stops, the wheels are still turning. “This madness goes on and on, but nobody seems to notice. The gambling action runs twenty-four hours a day on the main floor, and the circus never ends” (E 2493). His narration of scenery and people as well as dialogue is what makes his stories great. It doesn’t stop with the “half-naked fourteen year olds” and “silver-painted Polacks. The narrator soon finds “All kinds of funhouse type booths. Shoot the pasties off the nipples of a ten -foot bull dyke and win a cotton candy goat” (E 2493). Then character described as “a nazi drunkard appears two hundred feet tall in the midnight sky, screaming gibberish at the world: “Woodstock Uber Alles!” (E 2493) There’s a translation in the footnotes but one doesn’t have to read it to get the joke.
Reading Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas should have been included in the syllabus or least something written by Thompson. Other works such as Hells Angels, Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail 72′, The Great Shark Hunt: Strange Tales from a Strange Time all would have been great reads. Part of the course was seeing the evolution of American Literature since the Civil War. Our first major reading was from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and our last Bright Lights Big City. We read many things in between that helped further our understanding of the development of American Literature. However, I feel that we did miss out on something substantial by omitting Thompson. His contributions to the literary genre were just as significant as anything written by any of the writers we scrutinized over the course of the semester. Whether it was Twain, Wharton, Chopin, Hemingway, Faulkner, Ellison or Carver, Thompson would easily measure up to anything they had written. While McInerney’s Bright Lights Big City has provided some comic relief I don’t think we had enough in this course. Thompson could have easily filled that void.