When a friend recommended Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, I raised a sceptical eyebrow. And this friend of mine (let’s call him Oscar) told me the book was a modern literary classic. A must-read. So last weekend, I put Angela Carter aside, to read the novel that’s been delighting drug addicts and wannabe journalists for forty years. And, well – I thought it was a bit crap.

Illustration: Ralph Steadman

Illustration: Ralph Steadman

This novel is supposed to have kick-started a trend amongst writers called “gonzo” journalism – where you write the news about yourself instead of reporting the objective facts. Missing the point, somewhat? But this isn’t a book review. I’m writing about the Vegas book because I’ve noticed a disturbing trend among Thompson fans to imitate his style. 

For some amateur “journalists” – and I’m sorry to say this is true – that means taking loads of drugs and writing about their “experiences”! I mean, honestly. On this very campus, as well! Do they really think anybody cares about the revelatory, revolutionary ideas they had with their  last joint? I know I don’t. Now, I’m as liberal as the next man when it comes to drugs. I don’t like them myself, but I say live and let live. But taking them is one thing – it’s quite another to delude oneself into thinking that you suddenly become a “creative type” if you do it. 

It’s yet another myth about drugs that needs to be exploded. I consider myself a fine writer, and yet you don’t see me “dosing up” and “tripping” every weekend. Why would anyone want to be like Hunter S. Thompson? He wrote one notable book, and it’s overrated. It’s only “cool” because he does drugs in it. OH MY GOD, STOP THE PRESSES. 

Drugs may be many things, but they aren’t cool (in my humble opinion). Thompson was addicted to drugs, and he was addicted to drink. He killed himself eventually. He shot himself in the head, because he couldn’t take it any more. Is that “cool”? I don’t think so. Is that the kind of role model that modern writers should aspire to be? A broken shell of a man with one half decent book to their name? That’s not for me, thanks.

Gonzo journalism was not a new genre, as many like to think. It was a trend. You don’t see the Independent doing it now, do you? Who keeps this “gonzo” rubbish alive? Hippie amateur students, that’s who. They think they’re big shot writers, and secretly  wish they were Thompson. It’s base idolisation. I would say the drugs screwed with enough people’s minds to make them think he’d written a “classic”. Hunter S. Thompson is my new least favourite author. Not because of what he wrote, but because of what he represents. Idiocy. These days, you even see people dressed as him on Halloween. Does that scream “talented, successful writer”, or “drug addled psycho”? That’s how much real impact he had. That shows you how much of a “literary classic” the book is. If Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas represents a pinnacle of modern journalism, I’ll stick to my copy of the Indy and ride out the storm, thank you very much.

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The Badger

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6 Comments

  • I do not at atall like the manner with which you so easily regard others as amateur journalists. Please correct me if I am wrong, but are you in fact a widely published professional writer who has kindly taken time out to write for the badger? I think your high horse needs a rest,please allow him to do so.

  • *coughs*
    Gonzo.
    Gonzo is merely but a word that was used to describe the mess that was Hunter S. Thompsons disconnected scribbles. To an outsider, it would seem that gonzo was merely an excuse that Thompson used to take loads of drugs and go crazy and unfortunately for them, they would be missing the half of it. Yes, the drug taking was a pretty big part of Thompsons agenda, but he used it in his literary works as a means of fictionalizing the events so that he could represent something more important.

    Read the book again and pay close attention to the “adrenachrome” chapter, then do some research. As it turns out, “adrenachrome” as they represent it in both the book and movie is total bull twoddle. What Thompson did was use whatever he could to create a creative, fantastic and often outrageous series of events so that he could document the death of the hippie zeitgeist, the sins of living in this brave, new world of sin, lust and villainy and add his sly, snidey counter-culture commentary to everything from sports to politics.

    He may have been potrayed as this whacked out junkie writer from hell, but he was really a smart guy who knew exactly what he was writing. He blurred the lines between reality and fantasy to confuse and inspire in equal amounts, after all, he wasn’t always off his head.

    You’re merely representing a biased opinion on drug culture, Hunter S Thompson and gonzo altogether, you don’t understand the topic well enough to provide a non-biased argument. This is a rant passed off as a review. It scares you that people are taking drugs and writing like Thompson because you think they are all just ignorant idiots idolizing him, and they’re not. They’re just another opinionated young person like (I assume) you on a different side of the coin.

    You will always get those that glamourise drug abuse, but I assure you that a real gonzo writer doesn’t want to, and shows the bad and good sides of drugs and leaves it for others to discover themselves. Hunter himself once said “I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence or insantiy, but they’ve always worked for me” and just because it worked for him, certainley never meant “take drugs and feel good and write awesome stuff”.

    Also, as others have also said, the way that you so easily dismissed all other gonzo writers as nothing more than junked up idiots is worrying. It’s as if you think that they are just lazy layabouts who think that drugs will make them write well, and that’s seldom the case. And besides, if falling in love or reading a book can inspire a writer to create, why can’t taking a drug? It’s still an experience, and all the best writers write what they know.

    But whatever. Everyone’s entitled to an opinion and a freedom of speech, I suppose. They’ll always be critics.

  • First off, get your facts straight. It wasn’t the Vegas book that made Hunter into the “gonzo” icon that he is today. The Vegas book has been commonly mistaken to be Hunter’s greatest achievement in gonzo journalism but in reality was a fictional piece (like the Rum Diary) that was loosely based on his covering of the Mint 400 race and the police convention in Vegas. There were drugs done but not to the extent of which the book and movie portrays. Hunter himself occasionally voiced in several interviews that the Vegas book was in fact a total failure and that the life of Raul Duke was not a mirror image of his own. It was his examination into the Hell’s Angels that made him into the Dr. of Gonzo. He rode with the Angel’s and eventually became one of them. Hunter didn’t create gonzo journalism but he did show us what it’s like to go to the edge. “Those who know where the edge is are the one’s that have gone over.” That’s the point behind gonzo journalism, to completely envelope oneself in the story so to provide a bare-knuckle, no apology necessary journalistic story. Was he Walter Cronkite? Fuck no. He was a journalist of the drug world and showed us what that world was like.

  • I dont think I could add anything the last three left out so I’ll just agree, you only saw Thompson and his beautiful body of work through one eye.

  • First of all let me say I disagree with one view you have. In retrospect you would like to say Hunter shot himself. Is that a fact? Do you know that for a fact? “Who killed Hunter S. thompson”. This book was not published, and if it was, they did not release the book to the public. Seems quite interesting your statements (opinion) are vaild, to whom im not sure. Ignorance is what I see, backed up by no solid facts. Think twice before stating someone’s suicide, and also your reseach skills could improve. Idiocy is irelevant in so many different ways. Everyone is entitled to opinion’s but this was just to mention the none-obvious to the public who may or may not know the situation of Hunter S. Thompson. Whether I am more knowledgable or not, someone point me out if I’m wrong. Opinions are not facts, but instead biast a narrow minded perspective in this particular situation. Your pronouncements on journalism and being a journalist yourself, hopefully you understand my statement’s. peace.

  • Fear and Loathing never was accredited with kick starting Gonzo journalism, his work he did when he infiltrated the Hell’s Angels was the piece you were looking for. Also just because the public gets a boner about Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, does not mean it is his only good piece of work. The man had problems that reached far beyond drugs, though most great artists see music and hear colors and hear voices in their head. Your scathing analysis of his one book is a bit crap, to me. Just because you are the one person who didn’t enjoy the book does not make you some cool revolutionary. In fact, I took your article as a small child trying to knock down another child’s work to prop them self up, way to go champ.