Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Aberrant: Fear and Loathing

I failed to resist the temptation to go back and read Hunter S Thompson's article about the Kentucky Dirby. This post was originally going to start the other way - "I decided against going back and reading Hunter S Thompson . . ." but as I was writing, I thought "wait, is that even available on the internet?"

Turns out it is, though I misremembered the title. I thought it was "Fear and Loathing at the Kentucky Derby," but it turns out that was just a confabulation on my part. He used the phrase in two of his titles and it somehow got indelibly linked to his writing in general (hence the title of this very Aberrant book, which I swear to you I haven't forgotten about). Luckily, google knew what I was talking about.

My original plan was to avoid reading any Thompson, because I felt like any comparison to Duke Rollo, the Aberrant universe's Hunter S Thompson homage, would not be fair to the book. And I was right. There is absolutely no comparison between Justin Achilli's impression and the genuine article. I'd read one line of "The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved" and I was instantly hooked. Fifteen pages about a 50 (good, god!)-year old horse race gripped me harder than 24 about superheroes.

Like I said, not fair. But to Mr Achilli's credit, Duke Rollo's voice does sound a lot like what you remember Hunter S Thompson sounding like. It's a caricature, but it's an apt caricature. The result is about 95% fun to read and about 5% "that simile is grossly inappropriate and you should be ashamed of yourself."

Where Aberrant: Fear and Loathing stumbles is in grasping the point of gonzo journalism. Hunter S Thompson made himself part of the story and had a habit of fixating on the grotesque, but the result was to bring an immediacy to the writing and to highlight the corruption and surreality of things we take for granted. It's a style that's wasted on superheroes. Cestus Pax may be an asshole, but none of us are in the sort of self-satisfied dream world of complacency that lets us forget that he's weird.

In the end, this book is occasionally amusing and intermittently useful for getting a ground's-eye view of the Aberrant universe, but I question the utility of the Duke Rollo character. Is there really much point in being a curmudgeon about something you invented?

Ukss Contribution: There was one line in this book that I thought was a genuinely sublime piece of writing. It describes Ibiza as a "land where all languages are spoken, but none are understood."

That, more than cities "opening their legs like a whore," captures the sort of degenerate mayhem that is at the heart of great gonzo. It's not something I can use, per se, but I did like the runner, later on, that compared Ibiza to an island of demons, a "Hell in the Mediterranean."

I may just take that a little more literally than it was intended, because Ukss has demons, but not taint-maddened novas, but when I make my version of the lawless demon party island, I'll be sure to remember to steal the book's best line.

1 comment:

  1. I appreciate the prompt to go read the classic piece for myself. Thank you.