fear and loathing

The last of three non work books I picked up last year due to needing a break from industry research, Fear and Loathing is Hunter S. Thompson‘s most renowned work, an entry into gonzo journalism which he helped to pioneer.

This was the first book I’ve read of Thompson’s, and it was extremely interesting.  The idea behind gonzo journalism actually makes it difficult to ascertain what’s true, what’s not, what’s embellished, what’s completely fabricated either purposefully or due to a drug fueled mis-remembrance.  The book itself is a walk through of Thompson and his compatriot lawyer as they investigate two potential stories to be written for different publications.

The writing is in first person narration.  There are a few things notable in his style, for instance, he uses italics continually as part of speech to denote inflection.  This is a common practice in English writing, however the number of times he does so makes it stand out, usually to comedic effect.

Fear and Loathing is outrageous from the outset.  It’s a drug addled storyline with actions so out of the norm for most Americans that it must border on unadulterated fiction.  However, like other novels that seem somewhat surreal such as Kerouac’s On The Road or Kasey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, these stories were written in a different time.  America was wildly different in the 50s, 60s, and 70s, so much that these stories seem outlandish when in reality there were many things happening like this all the time.  It doesn’t mean that everything is capital T truth, but you’d be surprised.

Characters say and do things that make them seem like maniacs, and in all appreciable sense they are.  From one scenario to another, they seem to avoid any real implications of all their illicit activity.  Time and time again, the story keeps on.  It works.

This is a fast paced book, you could read it in three hours or so.  It’s entertaining, funny and a stark departure from most writers’ style and story.  It’s worth reading.  Thompson also wrote about Hell’s Angels in another gonzo journalism entry which at some point I’ll pick up.  He was a character, to say the least.  And he was a good writer too.