Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Las Vegas' Fall/Rise & Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Just like Detroit, Vegas was hit hard by the recession and is looking for urban renewal.

From Sunday's Guardian article "Downtown Las Vegas may have found what it's looking for:"
[B]roken pavements, empty lots, boarded-up facades. This urban wasteland is the real downtown Las Vegas, the product of decades of dysfunction and neglect, home to poverty, unemployment and foreclosures, a dystopian hangover to the strip's excesses in a town hit harder than most by the recession. Ocean's Eleven feels far away. 
Yet it is here an enigmatic tycoon is spending $350m (£230m) in a unique experiment at urban regeneration and, as he puts it, human happiness. Tony Hsieh (pronounced Shay) is luring poets, artists, inventors, investors, geeks, a motley band of British entrepreneurs and 1,500 ferociously cheerful employees known as Zapponians into an attempt to turn downtown Las Vegas into a hub of culture and innovation. 
Hsieh, 39, a Silicon Valley wunderkind with a Midas touch, has become an improbable aristocrat of Sin City. In the past year he has bought swathes of real estate, including the former city hall, as part of an ambitious plan to jumble together business, arts and architecture in a way that fosters "serendipity", connections between people that fuel creativity and fulfilment... 
He has been inspired by Edward Glaeser's book Triumph of the City (subtitle: how our greatest invention makes us richer, smarter, greener, healthier and happier) and its idea of cafes, parks or squares anchoring communities.

What is the "Great Las Vegas novel?"  I think the leading contender has to be Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (which, along with The The White Tiger and Straight Man, is one of my top twenty favorite novels of all time).  I don't know if it'll teach you much about Vegas, but you'll be enjoying yourself too much to notice:
Under the pseudonym of Raoul Duke, Thompson travels with his Samoan attorney, Dr. Gonzo, in a souped-up convertible dubbed the "Great Red Shark."... On assignment from a sports magazine to cover "the fabulous Mint 400"--a free-for-all biker's race in the heart of the Nevada desert--the drug-a-delic duo stumbles through Vegas in hallucinatory hopes of finding the American dream... They never get the story, but they do commit the only sins in Vegas: "burning the locals, abusing the tourists, terrifying the help." 

A half-decent effort that I would avoid is The Delivery Man by Joe McGinniss Jr:
After attending college in New York, Chase returns to Vegas and is drawn into the lucrative but dangerous world of a teenage call-girl service with his childhood friend Michele, a beautiful Salvadoran immigrant with whom he shares a tragic past. Over the course of one extraordinary summer they will confront the violence and emptiness at the heart of the city...
To give you an idea of what I don't like about McGinniss' writing, here's a brief excerpt:
Chase was scared and asked how much money Mom owed (but to whom? and why?) and Carly said she thought it was like maybe two hundred thousand dollars but Carly was only eleven that summer and not very good with numbers so it could have been much less.
Why are you writing run-on sentences and perhaps you are trying to maybe like use the kid's stream of consciousness but that can't be it because I doubt that character would use whom in an inner monologue and I think the war on commas needs to stop.

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