I procured this from my cousin’s closet. My cousin Tripp is ten years older than me; he was in college at the time and I was staying with my aunt and uncle over the summer, in his old bedroom. I’m pretty sure both he and my uncle recommended that I read Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. The edition (not pictured above–I couldn’t find the one I snagged, but it had a similar cover–more on the cover below) could have belonged to Tripp, but it may have belonged to my uncle.
Reading Fear and Loathing was an initiation into some kind of new literature for me. It opened the way to authors like Vonnegut, Wm Burroughs, Herman Hesse, JD Salinger (admittedly, I read some Tom Robbins in this period as well. Ugh). Before HST I was reading lots and lots of science fiction and fantasy books, both classic and trash. I had also read lots of the “adventure classics,” stuff like Robinson Crusoe and Dracula and Great Expectations and the Tarzan novels. And comic books. Always comic books. But Fear and Loathing was something new for me; it combined the fantasy and adventure and weirdness I’d been reading with a political ethos and a sense of social-reality-via-unreality. Surreality. Fear and Loathing contained a whole new set of reading rules for me, chief among them: irony and paradox. All of a sudden, the verity of all past narrators was cast into doubt. I was savvy now. I was ironized. I was, y’know, hip to what may be under a text now, whereas before I was just scanning the text. Or at least it seemed that way. Looking back, I don’t know for sure.
Of course I lent this book out to anyone who seemed vaguely interested. I did this for years, and amazingly, the book kept coming back to me. Must be some mystical sign when I think about it. Who returns books? I loaned it out all the way through college before it finally escaped me for ever. I’m not sure who has it now. At the point this particular edition left me forever, it had a duck-tape cover with title and author in Sharpie-font, courtesy of one innovative reader. I like to think others were initiated by it, but I know that most of the readers I lent it to had already read their revelation-text, whether it was that Kerouac book or Slaughterhouse Five or Kafka’s The Metamorphosis. And I haven’t read this book in years, although I’m a big fan of Terry Gilliam’s movie. Still, it’ll always have a special place in my trunk full of drugs–er, heart.