Books you’re too old to read at 34

Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas ‘ Hunter S Thompson

Despite four years as a student, an insatiable appetite for reading and an impressionable and gullible mind, I’ve never read Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas. I did read Thompson’s book on Hells Angels when I was 21. At the time I was planning to spend the summer with an American girl I’d fallen for. The book didn’t excite me and, in the end, I didn’t excite the American, so Gonzo journalism and young Cathy fizzled out together.

Thirteen years later I read an article on the 100 greatest travel books ever written. Fear & Loathing was number 7. I dug it out from the counter-culture scrapheap that is Waterstones in Romford. And what humourless nonsense it is. Maybe at 21 I would have been carried along in the slipstream. The mix of drugs, cars, drugs and drugs might have seemed intoxicating. But, Jesus, not now. I kept worrying about the guy’s liver and how much debt he was running up. The subtitle is a Journey into the heart of the American Dream. But it isn’t really. It’s just a road trip to Las Vegas on drugs.

The thing that pained me most was this; if the guy is so off his bollocks on ether, speed, acid and LSD and his eyes are telling his brain there are iguanas sitting in the bar, how is he making notes about all this? If he can’t speak without insisting ‘Captain Zeng told him to do it’, how exactly is he coherently recording it for posterity? From my limited experience narcotics are not memory enhancing.

There is nothing duller than other people’s drug stories. And that dullness is multiplied when they are passed off as travel experiences. Travel book, my bum. I like to think my 21-year-old self would have seen through the bullshit and dismissed it out of hand, but I know deep down he would have liked it and if anyone asked, he probably would have even said he ‘dug’ it