The Globe and Mail ran a piece recently on literary travel for the stay-at-home vacationer, getting well known authors to recommend books that evoke various parts of Canada.
All very well. But, we don’t stay at home here; we believe that experiencing place in tandem with relevant, related reading, is a much richer form of literary tourism.
To wit: last month we were in ‘Sin City’, checking out bookstores, reading Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and tracking down some of the locales mentioned in it.
Circus Circus for example.
Here’s one of the best passages in the novel:
The Circus-Circus is what the whole hep world would be doing on Saturday night if the Nazis had won the war. This is the Sixth Reich. The ground floor is full of gambling tables, like all the other casinos…but the place is about four stories high, in the style of a circus tent, and all manner of strange Country-Fair/Polish Carnival madness is going on up in this space. Right above the gambling tables the Forty Flying Carazito Brothers are doing a high-wire trapeze act, along with four muzzled Wolverines and the Six Nymphet sisters from San Diego…so you’re down on the main floor playing blackjack, and the stakes are getting high when suddenly you chance to look up, and there, right smack above your head is a half-naked fourteen year-old girl being chased through the air by a snarling wolverine, which is suddenly locked in a death battle with two silver-painted Polacks who come swinging down from opposite balconies and meet in mid-air on the wolverine’s neck…both Polacks seize the animal as they fall straight down towards the crap tables – they bounce off the net; they separate and spring back up towards the roof in three different directions, and just as they’re about to fall again they are grabbed out of the air by three Korean Kittens and trapezed off to one of the balconies.”
It’s a light, fast moving read, funnier than expected, and surprisingly thought-provoking – largely because as a literary tourist on the scene, you get face-to-face with these American Dream seekers that Thompson so successfully lampoons… complete with Southward angled cigarettes dangling from their mouths, their eyes glazed, Depends secured, coins flowing from their pockets into insatiable fruit-buttoned machines, flushing money down the toilet bowl.
Mind boggling really. More fucked up than anyone on drugs could ever be. Knowing the odds are stacked against them. Playing anyway.