Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream

by Hunter S. Thompson

Other authorsRalph Steadman (Illustrator)
Paperback, 1998

Call number

306 THO



Vintage (1998), Edition: 2nd, 204 pages


Records the experiences of a free-lance writer who embarked on a zany journey into the drug culture.

User reviews

LibraryThing member absurdeist
I should be absolutely 100% appalled by this book. I should be outraged! I should be steamed! Fear & Loathing's wanton, unapologetic depictions of controlled substance binges and boozy ennui masquerading as "Gonzo" journalism should be an affront to my moral sensibilities. Is getting pulled over
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for a DUI off I-15 in Baker, CA, and convincing the CA Highway Patrol to let you off with a warning based on the stipulation that you pull into the rest stop up ahead and sleep it off any laughing matter? Yes (I mean no; no!) it isnt! So why am I in tears? There's nothing funny about drunk driving -- unless, that is, Hunter S. Thompson's the one sitting sauced behind the wheel.

Am I bad person for impersonating a hyena (explosions of spittle spewing over my paperback copy of Fear & Loathing I addictively consumed in one sitting) when Hunter attends the anti-drug conference in Vegas and shows up in his sleep deprived, rowdy rancourous self and interacts with police officers, engaging the more gullible cops with ludicrous conversations about drugs & drug enforcement, while completely stoned on dope; out of his freaking mind on a cocktail of drugs ranging from shrooms to blow to mescaline and who knows what all else? He mocks the anti-drug movement merely by appearing at the conference. Can't the cops, experts in drug detection & prevention, tell there's a raving drug abuser in their midst? And as bad of a bad boy Hunter S. Thompson behaves, what about his lawyer instigating the entire sordid mess, and encouraging Hunter's highs in the first place? How did Hunter get away with so much irresponsible behavior and, rather than scold him for it, make us readers want to mimic his depraved attorney and belch out, "Party on Hunter! Go for it! Gonzo gonzo all the way!"

How can such a good book like Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas be so bad? I feel guilty for loving & adoring it so much. I think I should be arrested for giving it 5 stars. I cannot and will not recommend it (my morality trumps Hunter in the end), though I think you'd be a fool not to read it.
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LibraryThing member andreablythe
Duke, a doctor of journalism, and his attorney Dr. Gonzo journey to Vegas in search of the American Dream, though they are there on the pretense of covering a dirt bike race. Their manic search involves a drug soaked frenzy (I swear they do every drug on the market), along with all the inherent
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madness and muttering and bizarre hallucinations.

I don't know that there's much of a plot here, just a slender thread of cause and effect that leads to ever more freaky and strange events, most of which involve terrifying tourists and the local population. They only manage to save themselves by spinning wild and highly fictionalized tales of epic proportions.

Sometimes when reading books filled with unsympathetic, drug addled, and amoral characters, I find myself going cold, left with only a sense of being disturbed. However, this book was delightfully depraved, and perhaps this was possible due to the undercurrent of humor that kept things light and fun. Also, Duke and Dr. Gonzo's manic chaotic rambling has a strange kind of hopeful edge that makes you want them to lock onto something, learn something, maybe even find the American Dream they're looking for. (There's also the autobiographical aspects – and I have no idea how much is true and how much is fictionalization – which leaves me stunned, because I can't believe anyone could do these things or even half of this amount of drugs and live.) On the whole, thoroughly enjoyable.
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LibraryThing member edgeworth
I really loved this, which I wasn't expecting too. I haven't seen the movie, and all I knew about the book was that it was a semi-autobiography detailing the drug-addled adventures of an acid-soaked writer during one week in Vegas. I was dubious as to how entertaining that might be. I needn't have
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I'm not sure how closely the story correlates to real life, but essentially, Thompson (as his alter ego Raoul Duke) is sent to Las Vegas to cover a racing tournament, and brings along his gigantic Samoan attorney who is as much of an irredeemable basehead as he is. The duo spend a week roaring around Vegas in a red convertible, the trunk containing enough drugs to "kill an entire platoon of United States Marines," and essentially bare their asses at every law they find. They trash hotel rooms, terrify hitchhikers, and infiltrate a police convention on drug crimes, all while speeding off their heads and hallucinating about "huge pterodactyls lumbering around the corridors in pools of fresh blood" or "two women fucking a polar bear." The sense of an alternately fascinating and horrifying seven day drug trip is perfectly supplemented by Ralph Steadman's grotesque, blotchy illustrations, scattered throughout the book (my only complaint is that the scenes they depict usually occurred about twelve pages ago).

You'd imagine that two hundred pages of acid trips would grow old fast, but Thompson's skill as a writer is such that it maintains its lustre all the way through. Raoul Duke is one of those loveable characters who lives purely on fanatical, reckless impulse, with no consequences to either his freedom or health. Any real person who took the amount of drugs Raoul and his attorney do would be dead in seconds and probably also find themselves immortalised as an oddity in a journal of medicine. Likewise, a brush with the law and twenty years in prison would also be inevitable; unlike the health consequences, however, Thompson sweats over this with constant paranoia. Fortunately for the reader, he has a great sense of humour about it all.

My favourite quote, on the topic of highway police:

"No cop was ever born who isn't a sucker for a finely-executed high-speed Controlled Drift all the way around one of those cloverleaf freeway interchanges."

The place of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas as a watershed moment in twentieth century culture was deservedly won. There's a whole slew of themes and messages in this book, which Thompson described as a "vile epitaph for the drug culture of the sixties," but I was enjoying it too much to bother thinking about them. Fundamentally, it's just an exhilerating, high-octane journey through the neon lights, vomit-streaked hotel rooms and warped culture of 1971 Las Vegas. A hell of a toboggan ride!
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LibraryThing member lydia1879
Oh boy. This book.

I loved it, when I read it. It was one of my first audiobooks, and I used to listen to it on my Ipod when I was about 14 or 15. It's probably Thompson's most well-known book and, I would argue, one of his best.

Now, make no mistake. Hunter S. Thompson was a problematic person. He
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used many and various substances (many of which are depicted in this book), he is also misogynistic and some might say, misanthropic. I really didn't pay attention to that when I read it at the time, I was purely reading it for the experience of reading it and hadn't quite learned to read critically, so if I read it again, I might have a slightly different opinion on it.

To say this book is fast-paced is an understatement. This is a fantastic piece of social commentary on American society and all its peculiarities. It is dark, bitter, hilarious and Thompson is almost melancholic in his love for American culture. He deftly tears into social norms and after a little while, you just accustomed to the absurdity of it all.

The writing itself, though, is spectacular. There are some passages of this book that made me stop dead when I heard them or read them aloud, that I still think about, that still stick with me today. I don't want quote those passages because I think it's important for you to experience them in their context, as Hunter intended them to be.

When you read this book, keep an open mind, and just let it take you where it will.

This novel is an absolute trip.
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LibraryThing member elliepotten
I was a little intimidated at the thought of starting this book, and yet again I was overjoyed to find that I am, in fact, a grown up after all and can handle a cult classic with the best of 'em. I don't know why it's such a surprise really, because so often when I've been daunted by a book I've
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found my fears to be completely unfounded.

Anyway. This book is mad. Funny, chaotic and mad. I can see why it made such a good film, and why Johnny Depp fit the lead role so perfectly. Not that I've seen the film, but I've ordered a copy and from the trailer (at the bottom of the post, if you've been living under a rock like me) it looks pretty close to the original, certainly in spirit! Basically, Fear and Loathing is a semi-journalistic, semi-fictional, semi-situations-have-been-altered-for-artistic-reasons journey through the heart of early-seventies Las Vegas, set against the shifting drug culture and the dissipation of the hippie idealism of the sixties.

This is a time when the American Dream is falling apart. When money talks, the power of the masses is seeping away, 'consciousness expanding' drugs are disappearing from fashionable circles, and flower power is transforming into something darker, dirtier and a whole lot more seedy. At the heart of the book, Raoul Duke (Thompson's persona), his attorney and a very nice Red Shark convertible loaded with a medley of dangerous substances coast through conventions and rallies, bars and casinos, seeking the remnants of the American Dream and getting amazingly loaded along the way. Part 1 is about their 'coverage' (I use the term loosely) of the Mint 400 race in the Nevada desert, and Part 2 documents their return to Las Vegas to gatecrash the National District Attorneys' Conference on Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (there might be samples!).

It's always difficult to describe and review such a crazy book, so instead I'll just say that it's pretty damn brilliant. It made me chortle aloud plenty of times, yet also had some quite poignant and downright repulsive moments that brought home the futility of their search for meaning, and the decidedly less-than-glamorous world a junkie inhabits. Mostly though, it was the best kind of farcical comedy - funny, ridiculous, outrageous, gutsy and I never quite knew what was going to happen next!
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LibraryThing member takieya
Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas is strange and entertaining romp through the eyes of a man on massive amounts of drugs, travelling through the already colourful city of Las Vegas. Definitely an interesting look into drug culture, and well worth the read.

A most enjoyable and entertaining read… This
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was my first time reading Thompson, and I will most certainly be checking out some of his other works in the near future.
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LibraryThing member Katie_H
A dark comedy, "Fear & Loathing" is the wild and crazy ride of journalist, Raoul Duke, and his lawyer, Dr. Gonzo, who are in search of the American Dream in Las Vegas, circa 1971. They journey to Sin City intending to cover a motorcycle race, but their journey becomes insanity as they partake of
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every drug under the sun...LSD, mescaline, ether, alcohol, marijuana, pills, etc, etc, etc. The author's descriptions of the drug induced adventure are both bizarre and hilarious. I didn't love the book as much as others have, but I can appreciate the rave reviews. It's a mad and wacky read that will probably appeal most to the "dazed and confused" crowd.
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LibraryThing member martyr13
Trippy book, with crude, but appropriate illustrations, and laugh out loud absurd situations.
LibraryThing member dczapka
The premise behind Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is deceptively simple: Thompson and his attorney take massive amount of drugs, drive to Vegas; hilarity ensues, Thompson writes about it. On the most basic level, that sums the book up pretty accurately, but beneath the veneer is a book that's
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almost as horrifying as it is hilarious.

Thompson's style, a strange combination of mostly straightforward journalism and creative description, all told with an unusually acute ear towards veracity and seriousness, is the most disarming quality of the book. It never judges, and mostly only presents, capturing the true reactions of the participants involved even when Thompson or his attorney are too doped-up to have been able to really know.

The drug-addled dialogue is as priceless as scenes that depict ridiculous scenarios -- cutting across a highway, plowing through a fence, and driving across a major airport runway, for instance -- in such a matter-of-fact manner that their absurdity is amplified.

The book works, though, because of its surreal setting, a city that Thompson acknowledges is full of precisely the mix of people that make their antics seem somewhat normal. That, as well as the ease with which the duo enter and escape from potentially disastrous scenarios, is as disturbing as Thompson's sober meditation on the police who seek out the "drug culture" but don't know the first thing about how deep it goes.

It's doubtful this book will convince anyone that drugs are a useful or creative tool, but the ride is fast-paced and entertaining and, like Vegas itself, full of one-of-a-kind moments that you may never read about again.
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LibraryThing member Griff
Read a very long time ago. A rollicking ride as only Hunter Thompson can provide. I loved his writing for Rolling Stone in the days when Rolling Stone was an excellent source of music information, social commentary and journalism - gonzo or otherwise.
LibraryThing member amme_mr
Angus and Robertson Top 100 (2006 - 2008) Book #81.
I was surprised when I read this book. I have heard rave reviews about this book everywhere. But I was not a fan at all. This is potentially due to my very negative attitude towards any form of drug culture. Far too out there and immersed in drugs
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for my liking.
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LibraryThing member DinadansFriend
This book has precursors, the highly personal reporting of the American presidential campaigns by Norman Mailer, and Thomas Wolfe's study of Ken Kesey's societal experiments.. For a short period this trio contributed highly coloured but intelligent analysis of the actions of American society
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especially about its political processes. This is more social than political, but like thomas wolfe on the drug culture, it opens a window on the manner in which the USA tried to deal with the rapid creation of a new viewpoint on the USA. Liberal adventurism. Great fun and very penetrating.
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LibraryThing member bartt95
An extremely fast paced, fun, drug-filled story of lunacy and insanity, set in on the road to and in Las Vegas. Thompson and his "attorney" take every type of drug that they can find and meet Vegas' madness head on, with hallucinations, bouts of pure savagery, and episodes of absurd paranoia. A
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true page-turner that never loses its pace, the book is a reflection on the 60's and its disappointments, and is set firmly in a time when a whole generation lost its illusions and had to face a hard reality and a not so promising future.
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LibraryThing member HvyMetalMG
Here's a book that was not as good as the movie. How could it be? With all the crazy wacked-out acid trips, the movie does a terrific job of giving you some bad flashbacks and Johnny Depp does bring Hunter Thompson alive. The book, which is actually a true account - a memoir if you will, albeit a
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fucked up one, tells the story of a few drug filled crazy days in Las Vegas before big corprations took over The Strip. Although Circus-Circus was still around and I imagine that is a fun place to drop acid, Hunter Thompson tells a much more insane account of that. A fun read, but a bit slow at times. Maybe I should have read it in college when I was in the right frame of mind.
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LibraryThing member KayPrime
HST was my introduction to cult fiction. He has a talent for conveying the human experience and he does it in a way that only he can. His language is hilarious and his observations poignant. In his own strange way he shows that the American Dream is only an illusion and more akin to a nightmare.

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understand why some people don't get this book (squares lol) but HST nails the trippy drug frenzy on the head (no doubt from his many, many years of experience). It is so penetrating, in fact, I can understand and relate to his psychadelic journey.

Upon my third time reading this, I'm not sure I have the same sense of satisfaction finishing it as I have in past years. As much as I enjoyed his story- telling, I am not as tickled. He is still a great author. This is still a great work. Perhaps I'm just not the person I was once. For me, this will always be a 5 star book in it's own way.

"Too strange to live, too rare to die." RIP HST
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LibraryThing member Arctic-Stranger
A screaming comes across the desert....

Well this book is not Pynchon, but it is rousing tell of two drug addled gonzos who wander in and out of trouble (mostly in) in Las Vegas in the early 70s. The drugs though are a backdrop to Thompson's cutting commentary and America and the American Dream. He
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is living, and wants to shock you into living it as well. That makes his suicide even more painful.
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LibraryThing member hippietrail
Maybe you have to have had drug experiences for this book to be fantastic.
LibraryThing member rubberbandeffect
This book made me seriously question my morals by about page 5, then proceeded to scare the crap out of me. And I thought I was tough...
LibraryThing member bookishjoxer
It was a good book, just alot of babbling and I think I did better watching the movie because it wasn't so in your face on and on and on.
LibraryThing member derfla3101980
Made me a n fan of HST.wanted to take allot more drugs when finished.Where dose one get ether anyways?
LibraryThing member stipe168
dazy and funny.. hard to put down with his ferocious writing. Very quotable, very good.
LibraryThing member soylentgreen23
"Fear and Loathing" is an incredible piece of fiction - Thompson and Mr Gonzo going on an extreme road trip into Las Vegas, and into its heart, all while pumped up on drugs of every variety. It feels like one massive trip, just reading the book - the characters are terrifying, and the world they
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inhabit equally so.
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LibraryThing member zmobie
I could not stop reading this, utterly fascinating and very insightful. At times I found it laugh-out-loud funny, which is rare in most all books I read.
LibraryThing member gazzy
The best of that baby boomer of genre of drug writing. Strange, scary and hilarious - drug induced paranoia told through the rose colored lenses the boomers pissed away.
LibraryThing member AdrienneSW
One of my all-time favorites. Found my copy the Goodwill circa 1999, and was not able to put it down once I started reading it. I have read it countless times since. The movie is awesome as well, but as usual, the book is even better. If you have never read it, or have only seen the movie, do
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yourself a favor and read it!
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