The Curse of Lono by Hunter S. Thompson (author) & Ralph Steadman (illustrator)
I was lucky enough to find this awesome illustrated book at a garage sale along with a slew of other books and graphic novels, all fifty cents each. I bought quite a load. This was years ago and I sold most of them on half.com, but luckily I kept The Curse of Lono.
In what I am assuming is the style of Hunter S. Thompson, this book completely lacks any political correctness.
It comes across as an autobiographical story and at the end there is a photo that backs this up. But it’s essentially about Thompson and Steadman’s trip to Hawaii to cover the Honolulu Marathon, a journalistic endeavor that is supposed to turn into a vacation. It ends up being a tortuous adventure; Thompson stays over 6 months because of course he revels in torture.
Most of it takes place on the Big Island and if we take Thompson at his word, it is not the
kind of place a self-respecting vacationing family would want to visit. I’ve personally been to that island and while it is true it’s nothing like the green paradise of Oahu, it’s not quite the dangerous hell-hole he makes it out to be. Or maybe I just haven’t visited the right (or wrong) places.
Thompson’s quirky out of the box writing style, full of stretched metaphors and drug-induced descriptions, is engaging and simply funny. In fact, drugs and his experiences with them are always creating a colorful scene. He reminisces about smoking opium in Saigon:
“That is still one of my clearest memories of Saigon – stretching out on the floor with my cheek on the cool white tile and the dreamy soprano babble of Mr. Hee in my ears as he slithered around the room with his long black pipe and his little bunsen burner, constantly refilling the bowl and chanting intensely in a language that known of us knew.”
And the lack of PC doesn’t stop there. He talks at length about “Japs” and other ethnic groups like there’s no tomorrow. Of course race is a touchy subject in Hawaii (and perhaps nearly everywhere) so it’s pretty ballsy to even go there. Maybe back in the 80s it was okay to use the n-word, or maybe not, but he does (out of someone else’s mouth). I have a feeling HST was quite fearless.
“The Korean community in Hawaii is not ready, yet, for the melting pot. They are feared by the haoles, despised by the Japs and Chinese, scorned by the Hawaiians and occasionally hunted for sport by gangs of drunken Samoans, who consider them vermin, like wharf rats and stray dogs…”
Wow. It’s a great read, but must be taken with a grain of salt. The reason it really has to be read though is so you can see the amazing illustrations by Ralph Steadman and how the whole thing works together, including the accompanying text on the death of Captain Cook by the Hawaiians.