A Savage Journey

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Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream is a novel by Hunter S. Thompson, illustrated by Ralph Steadman. The book is a roman à clef, rooted in autobiographical incidents. The story follows its protagonist, Raoul Duke, and his attorney, Dr. Gonzo, as they descend on Las Vegas to chase the American Dream through a drug-induced haze, all the while ruminating on the failure of the 1960s countercultural movement. The work is Thompson’s most famous, and is noted for its lurid descriptions of illegal drug use, its early retrospective on the culture of the 1960s, and its popularization of Thompson’s highly subjective blend of fact and fiction that has become known as gonzo journalism. The novel first appeared as a two-part series in Rolling Stone magazine in 1971, was published as a book in 1972.

Martin Scorsese and Oliver Stone each unsuccessfully attempted to film a version of the novel. In the course of these attempts, Jack Nicholson and Marlon Brando were considered for the roles of Duke and Dr. Gonzo but the production stalled and the actors aged beyond the characters. Afterwards, Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi were considered, but Belushi’s death ended that plan. In 1995, Gilliam received a script he felt worth realising; his 1998 film features Johnny Depp and Benicio del Toro as “Raoul Duke” and “Dr Gonzo”, respectively.

Duke Narrating:

We’re all wired into a survival trip now. No more of the speed that fueled the ’60s. That was the fatal flaw in Tim Leary’s trip. He crashed around America, selling “consciousness expansion” without ever giving a thought to the grim meat-hook realities that were lying in wait for all those people who took him seriously. All those pathetically eager acid freaks who thought they coul buy peace and understanding for three bucks a hit. But their loss and failure is ours too.

What Leary took down with him was the central illusion of a whole lifestyle that he helped create. A generation of permanent cripples, failed seekers, who never understood the essential old-mystic fallacy of the acid culture. The desperate assumption that somebody or at least some force is tending the light at the end of the tunnel.

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