* * *
I never knew he was such a good writer.
Reading Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is a mind-opening experience. It is nonsense by two complete losers but you will never forget it. The dialogue, characters, action, and diction make it a serious and a stand-alone work despite its 120 or so pages. As a journalist–trained to write short, factual pieces–the doctor makes every word count and the skill is it is just plain fun to read. You keep thinking there is a plot and some form of resolution or message, but there is none; it is as if Thompson can write whatever he wants and at the same time lead the reader through a world of dysfunction they have no interest in. It is psychosis on an enormous scale. At the same time it is a biopic of the author himself: it is, in a word, potential.
I can relate, sans the psychodelics. It is “damn hard to become a free lance writer,” Thompson said. It is an amazing skill, and to be in demand as an observer and recorder, and even consultant… It is a highly individual way to achieve, or at least stumble toward, an American dream.
I don’t like continuously hearing about things and not knowing what they are. Through a web search, this is the version of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas I read.
The Dwark approached our table cautiously, as I recall, and when he handed me the pink telephone I said nothing, merely listened. And then I hung up, turning to face my attorney. “That was headquarters,” I said. “They want me to go to Las Vegas at once, and make contact with a Portuguese photographer named Lacerda. He’ll have the details. All I have to do is check into my suite and he’ll seek me out.” My attorney said nothing for a moment, then he suddenly came alive in his chair. “God hell!” he exclaimed. “I think I see the pattern. This one sounds like real trouble!” He tucked his khaki undershirt into his white rayon bellbottoms and called for more drink. “You’re going to need plenty of legal advice before this thing is over,” he said. “And my first advice is that you should rent a very fast car with no top and get the hell out of L.A. for at least forty-eight hours.” He shook his head sadly. “This blows my weekend, because naturally I’ll have to go with you – and we’ll have to arn ourselves.”
The first twenty pages… They grab you. I had never read anything like it, a paragraph this dense with action, simple description, and dialogue. It turns out this online version is corrupted, and when I finally became tired of inferring the half-missing words I switched to another version. It is more pages if properly punctuated. I don’t like the drawings. I want just the writing.
It is pretty clear by this point what is going to happen: nothing, or they will wind up in jail or pass out and never recover. Everyone is a bastard or swine and they are afraid of all circumstances and all people they encounter.
This is one of my favorite passages, around page 17 of the condensed version:
“I hate to say this,” said my attorney as we sat down at the Merry-Go-Round Bar on the second balcony, “but this place is getting to me. I think I’m getting the Fear.”
“Nonsense,” I said. “We came out here to find the American Dream, and now that we’re right in the vortex you want to quit.” I grabbed his bicep and squeezed. “You must realize,” I said, “that we’ve found the main nerve.”
“I know,” he said. “That’s what gives me the Fear.” The ether was wearing off, the acid was long gone, but the mescaline was running strong. We were sitting at a small round gold formica table, moving in orbit around the bartender.
“Look over there,” I said. “Two women fucking a polar bear.”
“Please,” he said. “Don’t tcll me those things. Not now.” He signaled the waitress for two more Wild Turkeys. “This is my last drink,” he said. “How much money can you lend me?”
“Not much,” I said. “Why?” “I have to go,” he said. “Go?” “Yes. Leave the country. Tonight.” “Calm down,” I said. “You’ll be straight in a few hours.” “No,” he said. “This is serious.” “George Metesky was serious,” I said. “And you see what they did to him.” “Don’t fuck around!” he shouted. “One more hour in this town and I’ll kill somebody!” I could see he was on the edge. That fearful intensity that comes at the peak of a mescaline seizure. “OK,” I said. “I’ll lend you some money. Let’s go outside and see how much we have left.” “Can we make it?” he said. “Well… that depends on how many people we fuck with between here and the door. You want to leave quietly?” “I want to leave fast,” he said. “OK. Let’s pay this bill and get up very slowly. We’re both out of our heads. This is going to be a long walk.” I shouted at the waitress for a bill. She came over, looking bored, and my attorney stood up. “Do they pay you to screw that bear?” he asked her. “What?”
I’ll stop with the paragraph editing; that’s what happens when you cut and paste.
As I continued my research I found the word I was looking for: syntax.