Reflections on Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas Part 1

by Nick

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As per last time I’ve skipped the chapters that I didn’t have a response to.

Part One

Chapter 1

“The Mint 400,” I said. “It’s the richest off-the-road race for motorcycles and dune-buggies in the history of organized sport…”The fucker’s [the Vincent Black Shadow. A Motorcycle.] not much for turning, but it’s pure hell on the straghtaway. It’ll outrun the F-111 until takeoff.” (9)

Interesting opposition between Thompson and his attorney’s focus on maintaining a high speed in their convertible or with a Vincent Black Shadow and the vehicles immense turning power in the Mint 400. This polar opposition lays out how we understand what Thompson’s actually writing about. This journalist’s account emphasizes a personal journey over a specific incident like the Mint 400. Not also that the event is a race, a spectacle of movement that isn’t monolithic or tangible in the way a speech, political gathering, trial, or monument is. The steadiness here might also hint at how Thompson would think of his search for the American Dream as the real news story being pursued in all of this rather than just an event. These views might also apply to New Journalism and how the experience of one individual becomes more important than the requested news story itself. The way that person fits an individual place or event into the larger narrative of their life also mirrors a problem Thompson will note with the drug culture of his time later on.

Chapter 3

“He was turning the tape casette over. The radio was screaming: “Power to the People – Right On!” John Lennon’s political song, ten years too late. “That poor fool should have stayed where he was,” said my attorney. “Punks like that just get in the way when they try to be serious” (21)

The Samoan’s vision of a society which the people don’t have the strength the fight off is mirrored in part by the way he and Thompson get dragged into situations via drug use. But in light of the quotation near the end of the book that I mentioned in my last response I’d say this is more a critique of the current drug culture in their own time than a criticism of themselves. Or perhaps this is the “Samoan Dream” (20). At the very least this lack of independent choice and evaluation does not align with Thompson’s thoughts on the American Dream in that later comment I keep bringing up. We’ll get there.

“Joe Frazier, like Nixon, had finally prevailed for reasons that people like me refused to understand — at least not out loud” (23)

The paranoia that someone might hear Thompson’s thoughts is also mentioned on page 5 where he exclaims “Jesus! Did I say that? Or just think it? Was I talking? Did they hear me? I glanced over at my attorney, but he seemed oblivious.” One of the central conflicts in the book is between Thompson’s honest thoughts versus what he actually says. In a word Hunter focuses on the unspoken and the importance of caging up one’s mind as it reels and thinks in ways that scare itself much less a listening public. This happens again a little further down page 23 as well.

Chapter 4

Noting my last comment, the book then grants a power to speech demonstrated by how anyone can drastically change Thompson’s actions for fear that they might express fear leading to a 911 call (which I guess would then be another expression and all of this mumbojumbo I tried spinning is starting to sound really obvious. Who doesn’t fear other people reporting them to the police?). Anyway, Hunter’s paranoia sounds like this “I could see people talking and I wanted to hear what they were saying. All of them” (29). Oh, that sounds Foucaldian to you too? We should be friends.

Chapter 5

“Somewhere around eleven, I made another tour in the press-vehicle, but all we found were two dune-buggies full of what looked like retired petty-officers from San Diego. They cut us off in a dry-wash and demanded, “where is the damn thing?” “Beats me,” I said. “We’re just good patriotic Americans like yourselves.” Both of their buggies were covered with ominous symbols: Screaming Eagles carrying American Flags in their claws, a slant-eyed snake being chopped to bits by a buzz-saw made of stars & stripes” (38-9)

Suggesting that the whole race might be a sort of stand in for how we don’t understand some kind of big obvious reality as well as the American Dream (as suggested by the dune-buggies above). The insanely dusty conditions hint at our inability to understand everything while also correlating with Hunter’s drug abuse and how that alters his understanding of reality (remember the bats at the beginning of the book? Yeah).

Chapter 6

“This is the main advantage of ether: it makes you behave like the village drunkard in some early Irish novel. . . total loss of all basic motor skills: blurred vision, no balance, numb tongue–severance of all connection between the body and the brain. Which is interesting, because the brain continues to function more or less normally . . . you can actually watch yourself behaving in this terrible way, but you can’t control it.” (45)

Considering we’re talking about ether and Irish novels I immediately think of Leon Uris’ Trinity but that might be incorrect. Here Thompson criticizes his attorney and himself as they thrash themselves into nothingness on drugs. But at least they remember what occurs around them. At least they pay attention. I think that attention to detail demarcates them from the drug culture all around them which largely focuses on blowing one’s own mind rather than maintaining a heightened awareness and openness to reality. I also like that drugs don’t give Thompson any solace. On page 47 he says “Reality itself is too twisted” and the drugs only seem to increase his paranoia and anxiety.

Chapter 7

The end of this chapter demonstrates that Hunter can manage images or hallucinations out of the ordinary which connect with himself like grandma climbing up his leg. But something entirely other and outside himself like the huge Nazi towering over Las Vegas absolutely cannot be handled. This sort of goes without saying, but a Nazi would belong to the antithesis of American ideology so for that image to appear so close would shock the confines of Thompson’s world even harder.

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