Tag Archives: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Quote of the Day

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“We are all alone, born alone, die alone, and—in spite of True Romance magazines—we shall all someday look back on our lives and see that, in spite of our company, we were alone the whole way. I do not say lonely—at least, not all the time—but essentially, and finally, alone. This is what makes your self-respect so important, and I don’t see how you can respect yourself if you must look in the hearts and minds of others for your happiness.” 

Hunter S. Thompson, The Proud Highway: Saga of a Desperate Southern Gentleman, 1955-1967

I don’t now why (though I sorta/kinda do), but I woke up (i.e. raised my torso after a sleepless night) and had Hunter S. Thompson on my mind. If you’ve read War and Peace, the above quote might remind you of one of Tolstoy’s most famous passages from his opus (the “Love hinders death” passage).

My first foray into Hunter baby’s world came with Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. To this day, it and Philip Roth’s The Great American Novel remain  the two funniest books I’ve ever read. With Thompson, the man had an ability to live in and describe the world he was a part of like nobody else. While some may brush off gonzo journalism as hack writing or immature, drug-addled creativity, I have personally never read anyone like him before or since.

Another quote that came to mind this morning as I ambled around my apartment in the wee morning hours like a decrepit old man with failing bones was from the same book as above:

“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!”

Finally, on a more positive note (I think), I’ll close off Hunter S. Thompson’s Quote of the Day with a simple line that has more value to it than you might think at first. In its quietly pessimistic yet sobering logic, there’s actually something positive to be taken from it:

“Life has become immeasurably better since I have been forced to stop taking it seriously.”

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Monkey Hunting (novel)

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When you hear the words “monkey” and “hunting,” what comes to mind? Searching through forests, rifle in hand, as you keep an eye  out for primates swinging from tree to tree so that you can kill them with one decisive pull on the trigger of your 12-gauge pump shotgun, blowing said Curious George to smithereens?

No, no, no. Obviously you are not a monkey hunter. That is your bad.

In her 2003 novel Monkey Hunting, author Cristina Garcia tells the story of four generations of a Chinese family, the patriarch being Chen Pan, a 19th-century immigrant to Cuba. In case you didn’t know, Cuba had a sizeable ethnic Chinese population until Fidel Castro came to power in 1959 and said, “Thanks for your years of service (i.e. slavery), but your mother country is beckoning (i.e. get the hell out of our country, you dirty slaves).” Today, there are still remnants of a Chinatown in Havana, I’m told, minus the ethnic Chinese people themselves.

Although the novel starts on a page-turning note – we follow the struggle of Chinese immigrants to Cuba on their horrific journey across the world in much the same conditions as slaves brought to the Americas from Africa – the author soon loses the plot, literally and figuratively, and we start bouncing around the world at different periods in history, which in and of itself is always cool, but ends up being disjointed, fragmented and at times hard to follow in this particular case.

More specifically, the reader is not given the opportunity to form any real bond with the characters, as they fail to evoke even the slightest amount of empathy. The general rule to a decent novel is that it’s either highly plot-driven and the characters are one-dimensional (think Dan Brown or Lee Child, for example) or very much character-driven and the plot is almost secondary (think of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Eleanor & Park or The Goldfinch). Rarely do the two combine to form a work of art (think of anything from Anna Karenina to Freedom).

Unfortunately, when you’re not invested in the characters and don’t really care what’s happening all around them, it’s a recipe for disaster. And this, sadly, is the case with Monkey Hunting. It’s an interesting premise with some well-researched information, but for that kind of story I generally turn to non-fiction. Or perhaps Time magazine, where – ironically enough – Ms. Garcia used to work.

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Quote of the Day

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 It’s easy to criticize Hunter S. Thompson today. Bigot, homophobe, drug addict, alcoholic, quintessential shit disturber – the list is endless, really. But in his more or less less-addled moments of writing clarity, he did manage do some interesting things that have survived to this day, the most famous of which is his style of gonzo journalism (think of how Donald Trump speaks at rallies today, a complete lack of objectivity while seamlessly including himself in a first-person narrative to spin ridiculous tales).

However, Hunter S. Thompson could also pen some real diamonds in the rough that would shine through amid the other more harsh, biting and (at times) vulgar observances. One case in point being the quote below.

Before we get to that, though, I do have to say that one of my most enduring reading moments came when digesting Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream for my first time. I read large portions of it while going to and from work every day on the bus, and would consistently break out laughing so hard that tears streamed down my face. I was living in a small Korean city at the time and one of a handful of stick-out-like-a-sore-thumb foreigners there, so I’m sure I left a rosy impression on my fellow passengers (“Hey, do you think all Americans [sic, because obviously all Caucasians are Americans] are bat-shit crazy and cry while reading? Or can they simply not read and ride at the same time? Ha ha ha.”).

Nonetheless, if you haven’t read FALILV, do so. Soon and very soonly…

“History is hard to know, because of all the hired bullshit, but even without being sure of ‘history’ it seems entirely reasonable to think that every now and then the energy of a whole generation comes to a head in a long fine flash, for reasons that nobody really understands at the time—and which never explain, in retrospect, what actually happened.”

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Six Degrees of Maria Semple

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Kevin Bacon, pack up your grits. You ain’t got nuttin’ on Maria Semple. Per an article on slate.com, Dan Kois and Andrew Khan were struck with an idea upon publication of Semple’s latest book: Why not ask the Seattle-based writer what she thinks is the funniest book by a living writer.

The “daisy chain of hilarity” led them to ask those authors named by Semple what their list of funniest books by living authors was – and the results are very cool, including renowned writers like David Sedaris and Junot Díaz.

Personally, the two books which have actually made me cry out loud I laughed so hard were Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (though Thompson is no longer alive) and Philip Roth’s The Great American Novel (and I have no idea how Sabbath’s Theater made the slate.com list!).

As a side note, click here to see some of the funniest book titles known to humankind. Just make sure you’re wearing diapers or reading this in a bathtub, as you may unwittingly urinate on yourself.

If you have a suggestion for funniest book by a living/dead writer, feel free to drop me a note in the Leave a Reply box.

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