I just finished The Long Goodbye. Amazing book. I’m now moving on to Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Slaughterhouse Five. I think there’s a consistent theme in the books I’m choosing right now: they all have to do with reactions to a society that’s breaking down in both the moral and material sense, to such an extent that madness and nihilism become rational reactions. I think that I’m intuitively seeking some kind of answers to what’s going on right now: not only specifically in Iraq and New Orleans, but the fear, hysteria, and Hobbesian brutality of spirit that’s led us here. I really need to find some way to laugh, too; my moods nowadays are more just sullen and bitter and heavy, and I’m fed up with the smug inhumanity that New York hipsters insist on pushing as “humor.” It kind of makes me worried that I’m getting old and tired and humorless, but the only things that makes me laugh right now are really very, very serious. Thompson’s humor is a rabid, gibbering scream set against the background of a country that had finally shown itself to be more bugfuck crazy and vicious than all the bats and tentacled beasts that he could squeeze out of the Great Red Shark’s trunkload of mescaline, ether, acid and cocaine. Vonnegut is a more gentle, sad kind of laugh, the kind of joke you might tell at a funeral for a dear, dear friend.
Any other kind of joke seems obscene to me right now.
New Orleans feels not like our tsunami, but like our version of the firebombing of Dresden. But there would be a kind of bitter mercy to it if this had been done to us by an enemy. Instead, it was a malicious neglect by people who we expected, would show some pretense of decency in protecting their own citizens. It’s a passive massacre by our own leaders, and that’s the greatest cruelty of all.