One of the great, if undersold, American novels. A classic in its own right. One of a handful of novels I will reread from time to time. It’s been, maybe, a few years, more than 7, since I last ripped through it.
As one of the first “journalists” to recognize the presidential perfidy, with the first televised war on going, just makes the revelations, observations, and conceits throughout the novel that much more important.
“But what was the story? Nobody had bothered to say. So we would have to drum it up on our own. Free Enterprise. The American Dream. Horatio Alger gone mad on drugs in Las Vegas. Do it now: pure Gonzo journalism.” Page 23.
Just one of the passages, and at any given moment, rereading the text, I wonder. It is a savage journey into the heart of the American Dream, and dated, yet oddly prescient and timeless.
“For a loser, Vegas is the meanest town on earth.” Page 46.
Still is, if memory serves, still is.
“So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark—that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.” Page 67.
(Quoted again, the point where the wave crested.)
The quote, halfway through? Marks the point, historical, allegorical, or even just literary.
There is a Las Vegas I remember. First, as a roadie, literally, just an overnight at the edge of town, long enough to do a few loads of laundry and loose 50 cents in a slot machine. Then I wasn’t back for nearly a decade, and that was a fateful experience.
Slots had quarters. I wore a familiar uniform of a Hawaiian shirt and shorts, walked all over the new strip, and I won, if not huge, at least a decent chunk of change. Paid my rent off a slot machine win. My shorts almost wouldn’t stay up as I had yet to figure out the quarters buckets, and I was stuffing hundreds of dollars of quarters in my pockets.
Amusing, rookie memory. But it’s not the Vegas in Fear and Loathing, although certainly that is a precursor and the lawlessness was every bit as present. The sense of the American Dream being available at the whims of the fates, or furies.
The style of the story is razor-sharp, quick-witted, and breathless pacing. That’s what’s important, not just content but incredibly quick pacing. I want to write like that.
For me, it’s a novel that holds up under the scrutiny of repeated exposure.
- Aperture: ƒ/1.8
- Camera: iPad Pro (11-inch)
- Flash fired: no
- Focal length: 3mm
- ISO: 250
- Shutter speed: 1/30s