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Desert Solitaire
by Edward Abbey

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Hunter S. Thompson
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Fear and Loathing
I’ve long described my method of living as an exercise in aesthetics. Other people find a moral or religious purpose; I’ve worked on creating a lived-in piece of art. What bothers me most about so many people isn’t differences in opinion; it’s their failure to contribute anything beautiful or interesting to the world. And maybe that really is a moral failure — Wittgenstein thought that morality was a question of aesthetics, and I find myself inclined to agree.
Thompson
If morality and aesthetics are really the same question, then Hunter S. Thompson can be nothing less than a saint, and it’s the petty, predictable social conservatives who deserve our moral condemnation. The passive consumer of mass produced goods, television, shrink-wrapped religious dogma with no guts whatsoever. That is what evil really is. Fear and Loathing revels in drugs, sexual depravity, interstate crime, and a disregard for common sense so flagrant and intentional as to become a kind of sense of its own. It’s not that any of those things are good — most people who use recreational drugs aren’t any more creative or interesting than most soccer moms. (They just think they are.) What makes Thompson’s genius isn’t the fact of the drug abuse and depravity; it’s the style with which he does them, and the ability to tell a good story about it later. For Thompson, the lived-in art form itself wasn’t enough (although he certainly surpassed just about everyone else — ashes shot out of a cannon is about as gonzo as it gets). He had both the guts and the clarity to document it for the rest of us. His was a two-fold genius — a genius of living and a genius of writing. Most of us don’t manage either.

Was he immoral? I guess it depends on whom you ask. But if morality is an aesthetic — I think a strong argument can be made that it is — then for my money, he did all right. Certainly better than a grey-cinderblock moral realism would have us believe.

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