The Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning has celebrated To Kill a Mockingbird, The Great Gatsby and The Catcher in the Rye for its Carnegie Classics series.
Perhaps its most ambitious literary celebration to date will be Nov. 7, themed to Kentucky native Hunter S. Thompson's 1971 drug-fueled book Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
The book, written in Thompson's distinctive "gonzo" journalistic style, begins thus: "We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold." From there, it careens around Las Vegas as seen through eyes misted by various chemicals, most of them illegal even 40 years later.
The rear exterior of the Carnegie Center will resemble the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas. Opened in 1946, the Flamingo was the third resort to open on the Las Vegas Strip and is the oldest resort still in operation there.
The Carnegie's second floor will be transformed via a Fear and Loathing-themed display featuring works by artists R. Clint Colburn, Erica Lynne Cook, Erin Eldred, Pat Gerhard, Travis McGirr, Lennon Michalski, Ellen Molle, Ma Turner and Wayne Turner. The artwork will remain on display until Dec. 18.
The Fear and Loathing event also will offer a Vegas-style buffet, an open bar, live music, female impersonators and a typewriter installation, where guests can try writing their own gonzo journalism, which, broadly speaking, is a first-person narrator writing manically and without the pretense of objectivity.
Cody Decker, a writer for GonzoToday.com, will ask partiers to write a word, phrase or sentence about what they're experiencing. Decker will then include that in the GonzoToday article he writes about the event.
Attendees are encouraged to break out their '70s style — "bell bottoms and that whole aesthetic," said Bianca Spriggs, literary arts liaison for the center.
Carnegie Center executive director Neil Chethik said that Thompson, who died in 2005, "was an important voice for the counterculture ... and one of the first people to note that the counterculture had lost" in the era when Richard Nixon dominated American politics.
Thompson's "is a kind of raw writing. He threw off the reins in the '60s and '70s when he started writing. He said, 'I don't care what people think.' ... Every significant writer since then has pulled from that," Chethik said.
"It has a different meaning for my generation," Spriggs said. "It's those patterns that my generation is continuing to see unfold, this inability to admit that we have some issues in American culture that are steeped in greed and excess."
Released the year after Thompson's 1970 article titled "The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved," Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas cemented Thompson's reputation as a voice for his generation and is considered the first book-length example of gonzo journalism.
Thompson was inducted into the Carnegie Center's Hall of Fame, along with Jim Wayne Miller, Guy Davenport, Wendell Berry, Elizabeth Hardwick and Effie Waller Smith, at a ceremony in January.