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A simple reading of Hunter Thompson’s gonzo classic by the author could have been a real treat, with such muttering unheard on tape since Call Me Burroughs. Instead of the audiobook fans might have hoped for, though, this 75-minute CD on Jimmy Buffett’s label instead treats what Christopher Lehmann-Haupt called “the best book on the dope decade” as if it were a radioplay. Some of the same basic problems that have kept Las Vegas from being filmed for a quarter-century afflict this record; for one thing, did anyone ever read it without seeing and hearing every incident, every voice for himself? Thompson’s story holds a lot more than the kit bag full of drugs and the bad behavior they assist. But the subtleties and pain of Thompson’s finely balanced writing are hardly what should-know-betters like Harry Dean Stanton, Jim Jarmusch, Harry Shearer, and Buck Henry are here for. Instead, there’s a load of self-satisfied overacting and misinterpretation that crushes the book’s layers of meaning as flat as a Budweiser can on the highway. Why two people to cover Thompson’s role? And couldn’t someone who’d read the damn thing to the end have reminded producer Laila Nabulsi that the “Sympathy for the Devil” Thompson and his attorney play incessantly is the Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out! live version, not the studio take Waddy Wachtel painstakingly “reproduces”? It’s not just the little details that this Fear and Loathing gets wrong, but such misfires don’t help the project seem any less wrongheaded. How much did
they pay these people to screw that bear, anyway?Rickey Wright