kay, so this is a weird one – two guys about as tripped out on drugs as it is possible to be in ’71, hired out by a magazine to report on the craziness of the Mint 400 (a desert race outside of Vegas), going from seedy bar to wrecked hotel room in this dizzying series of episodic adventures from the very early seventies.
As you can imagine, I was having troubles getting my head around it (clear as it is from drugs) and to see the humor of some of the situations. Sure, Hunter Thompson is a raw guy – he’s the basis for Duke in Doonsebury. But he has a charm that seems build on foggy reasoning, strange experiences and a strain of practical sense that carries this. Like Harry Flashman, Hunter is brutally honest in his assessment of everything from worn Vegas performers, the city’s seedy north side, the uptight middle class, and the culture of crime/drugs/prostitution that forms this sinful coral reef in the middle of arid nowhere.
The thing was, as I read it, I started to get it. Thompson has correctly realized that he is at a turning point in American culture. The youth movements of the 60s, so bold and vibrant, have fizzled. Vietnam is grinding on and nothing seems to be getting us out. The right is becoming even more fascist, the left useless. And it all comes together in Sin City, where everything is for sale and everyone looks like they are living in that Nighthawks picture. And this is the true basis of this book, the fact that the characters are searching for the “American Dream”, seeing what it means and how it exists in a civilization gone seemingly mad. I lived in those times (I was about ten, but yes, I can remember it). And here it is, spooling out, spent, done, and something new is on the horizon, something strange and somewhat disturbing.
I think you need to have lived through the decline of the sixties to get this book. Or, for you kiddies who are curious about the time, here’s an image of it (distorted in a drug haze like some funhouse mirror). A quick read, a weekend if you put your eyeballs to it, but one that will leave you with a vague image of what those times were like.