On What To Read In Your Darkest Hour (And No It's Not Depressing)

This is what I think of that darkest hour stuff: you're told to make lemonade out of lemons in life. Yet sometimes you just don't have the ingredients. You wouldn't even know where to start to find them. Life doesn't even suck, it's just...nothing at all. When I hit a patch like that I pull out the big guns - the perfect book that may not have (any) answers but is a sure balm for a tired soul.

I know you're going to think I'm going to pull out some pseudo-spiritual book like Eat, Pray, Love or a Paulo Coelho tome at this moment but nope. My savior book is Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson.

The first thing you need to know about this book (for you unlucky folk who have never delved into its twisted depths) is that it is absolutely 100% without fail shit-in-your-pants-laugh-like-a-nutter-on-the-subway HILARIOUS.

A couple of years ago I worked at a dead-end office job in the east end of Toronto. I lived in a crap shack with a freaky landlord and was in a dead-end long term relationship that I just couldn't seem to excise myself from. I was, without a doubt, profoundly bummed, and did not yet have the resources to change my situation (I know, high class problems right, but bear with me). The only thing I looked forward to was the riotous laughter that exploded in my head every morning on the Queen streetcar before work when I read one more passage from Fear and Loathing.

It works like this: the book opens with the author and his 300 pound Samoan 'attorney' ripping down the desert highway to Vegas, blasted on various substances, screaming about bats and on a mission to record the Mint 400 motorcycle race in the only manner they know: pure Gonzo-style. The whole thing is pretty much to the extreme right of what any decently down person hopes and dreams for:
Every now and then when your life gets complicated and the weasels start closing in, the only real cure is to load up on heinous chemicals and then drive like a bastard from Hollywood to Las Vegas. To relax, as it were, in the womb of the desert sun. Just roll the roof back and screw it on, grease the face with white tanning butter and move out with the music at top volume, and at least a pint of ether.
The carnival of dementia continues when the duo make it to Vegas and attempt to document the race, despite bad trips in Circus Circus (of all places) involving lakes of blood and lizard people, a convention of district attorneys on the drug problem, a run in with a demented Christian female high on LSD, efforts to catch planes by driving right onto the tarmac, and always plenty of grapefruit. It's hard to pin down what the madness is all about so please, do yourself a favour and read this book. A couple of highlights:
(Samoan attorney) "They nailed this guy for child molesting, but he swears he didn't do it. 'Why should I fuck with children?' he says; 'They're too small!' He shrugged. "Christ, what could I say? Even a goddamn werewolf is entitled to legal counsel..."
(The author finding his attorney in the bath, grasping a large hunting knife and demanding he throw the radio into the bath when the song "White Rabbit" peaks) "I'd be happy to ram a goddamn 400-volt cattle prod into that tub with you right now, but not this radio...Shit they'd make me explain it..."
(And also because you're so tired of the system) The mentality of Las Vegas is so grossly atavistic that a really massive crime often slips by unrecognized.
The best thing about Fear and Loathing is that towards the end, just when I start to think that this wacked-out house of lies is going to cave in on me, a particular passage always gets me in the gut:
Every now and then you run up on one of those days when everything's in vain...a stone bummer from start to finish; and if you know what's good for you, on days like these you sort of hunker down in a safe corner and watch...Get out in the surf, in the fog, and slosh along on numb-frozen feet...with here and there a big pervert of wooly reject gimping off in the distances, wandering alone by them selves behind the dunes and driftwood.
I think I love this passage because despite the book's bravado this passage reminds me that the American Dream is not made for Thompson and his ilk - they can only parody it, take it to its extremes to display its inherent falseness. This passage humanizes the overall rallying cry of Fear and Loathing - to live, first and foremost, to the hilt and with no regrets, outsider or no. I don't rely on Fear and Loathing like I used to but its message is one I always take with me.

1 comment:

Joanne said...

Fear & Loathing is my go-to book too. And if I'm too depressed, bitchy, blah to read, then I pop in the DVD. Cheers me up instantly and apparently amuses the people around me as I've watched it so many times I can say the lines 3 seconds before the actual movie.


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