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Literary Las Vegas: The Best Writing About…
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Literary Las Vegas: The Best Writing About America's Most Fabulous City

by Mike Tronnes

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Las Vegas is a really weird town. Most of you, if you have any experience with it, know it from some blurry nights of gambling. To get the truly weird vibe that comes from this town you need to spend some time. In my case, that has come about because, for the last 23 years, I’ve been traveling there for work – getting tastes of Vegas in half- and full-week shots. (You can also throw in the two or three day “tourists-please-give-us-all-your-money” trips I previously mentioned.) This book, using essays and snippets of non-fiction books, does as good a job as might possibly be accomplished in trying to give the reader an idea what it is like to live in this gambling, legal prostitutioned, mob-driven, corporation-driven, A-Bombed, neon lit, Liberace-Elvis-Wayne watching, show girl walking, purple-haired, buffet fed, quickly-married and quickly divorced, its’ all about the hype, quote unquote city. Yeah – a selection from Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is here. The quintessential Vegas journey, the one from which others are measured (and at least one in this selection borrowed its name), it serves to remind us that no amount of drugs can compare to the “trip” that is a Las Vegas visit. Also notable are Blackjack and Flashes by Daniel Lang which (written in ’52) points out just how naïve the world was when it came to nuclear weapons, Vegas: A Memoir of a Dark Season by John Gregory Dunne which presents to us the Vegas comic’s life, and Searching for Sin City and Finding Disney in the Desert by Marc Cooper – the most recent entry in this book – which provides a scary look at what Vegas is now.

A couple of pieces are weak. There is one that is a transcript of an NPR presentation, and it just doesn’t work. And the selection from “How I Got Cultured: a Nevada Memoir by Phyllis Barber is good, but (at least for this selection) has little that makes it uniquely Vegas. But, overall, this is a very strong collection (including, selections from books that are good enough I want to search out the books.) The only other real drawback is you get a little tired of reading the same references and histories (outside of essays specifically on the subjects, you get tired of the Bugsy Seagal and atom bomb test references.) Another interesting point – the book was put out in 95, and there are some recent contributions. But the large proportion of submissions are 50’s and 60’s. Which raises the question (one actually kind of raised in Searching for Sin City), in spite of all its continued garishness, has Las Vegas become so normal that we are taking its bizarreness for granted?

I still think it is an incredibly strange place. And it may be that with the other strangeness in the world, it is harder for the press agents in Vegas to get the publicity. But this book will help remind you of what Vegas was, and why it will never be like anyplace else. ( )
  figre | Jan 27, 2007 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0805036709, Paperback)

Literary Las Vegas brings together the best writings from this neon outpost in the desert. Ranging from the hilarious to the tragic, these pieces provide what Nick Tosches calls a "Baedecker to the bizarre, a Virgil in shades, not only to the holy city but to the off-the-rack soul that we, one nation under Frankie's toup, so strangely and fatally share." Incisive, entertaining, and highly readable, Literary Las Vegas creates a unique anecdotal history about this one-of-a-kind place.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:41 -0400)

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