A literary search for the American dream, or a “gross, physical salute to the fantastic possibilities of life in this country”. Raoul Duke and his attorney, Dr. Gonzo, explore freedom of press, motorcycle races in the desert, the chance that anybody can win big in Las Vegas or life, and the ability to escape it all with drugs, even surrounded by cops during an anti-drug convention.
Las Vegas itself has blossomed into such an overblown cesspool of extravagance that Raoul’s surreal acid-ether hallucinations of dead grandmothers and two women fucking a polar bear doesn’t seem too far fetched. You don’t need psychedelics when you can walk into a casino day or night and see what Las Vegas has to offer. If the American dream is real, the reader is left with a feeling that it’s something unattainable, a lifestyle that looks good on the outside but built on perversions. What kind of a nation sentences Muhammad Ali to 5 years of prison and strips him of his heavyweight title for refusing to participate in the Vietnam war, while a drugged out madman in Vegas can collect 600 bars of translucent Neutrogena soap in one night?
Fifty years later, it’s easy to forget that the failed counter-culture of the 1960’s heavily shaped the American sensibility of apathy that pervades our society today. There was once a movement where victory over old and evil felt imminent, that the momentum of the young generation promised a better future. Unfortunately, the movement ended, and self-preservation still rules supreme today.
Fear and Loathing is serious commentary on the nature of what it means to be an American, but you barely notice the satire because of it’s funny, accurate, sugar-coated hallucinogenic acid trip. Masterfully crafted by one of the 20th century greats.