I must have watched this movie half a dozen times in my last year of high school, against my will. I enjoyed it at first, but enough is enough you stoner high-schoolers. We don’t need to watch this at every social gathering.
It’s been over a decade now, so I felt it was safe to have a peek at the novel. I actually don’t remember much of the movie anymore (somehow), and I went in thinking this was entirely fiction. After reading the Wikipedia page just now, I see that it’s actually an autobiographical account of two seperate Vegas trips merged into one and wrapped in a “fictional framework”. We know his two reasons for being in Vegas were real, but everything else seems to be up in the air.
So, the plot. It’s not really about plot, and as a result there really isn’t much of one. It’s split into two parts. In the first part, journalist Raoul Duke and his attorney, Dr. Gonzo, head to Vegas to cover the Mint 400, an off-road desert race, for Sports Illustrated. They make a brief appearance at the race, but mainly spend the time getting high in their hotel room. For the second half of the book, they’re asked to stick around and cover the National District Attorneys Association’s Conference on Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs. This half is more lively, as they spend time mingling with the conference patrons and searching the city for the American Dream.
American Dream? Wasn’t that an old discotheque? I think it’s closed down now.
What makes me think this book is more fiction than fact is that everything goes perfectly. Pretty much every situation and conversation they find themselves in goes about as well as it possibly could, everything from getting pulled over by a cop with a car full of drugs and weapons, so stoned he’s unaware of the beer still in his hand, to attacking a maid while nude in a freshly-destroyed hotel room that was registered under a real name. The idea of them being able to weasel out of every situation, whether with wit or luck, seems like the fantasy of a stoner who quietly locked himself in a hotel room for a week and didn’t bother anyone.
But it is fun, I will give you that. And hilarious at times. He seems to perfectly capture the atmosphere of being off your head and up for anything in a wild town in the middle of a desert. The illustrations by Ralph Steadman were a nice addition too. This is my first read of Thompson’s, the man who invented Gonzo journalism, so I am interested in reading some of his other work. I like his writing style, and I’d like to see it applied to something I know is real.