Literary Fun in Las Vegas

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about turning any trip you go on into a literary one. I did just that for my recent trip to Las Vegas, so I want to share all the bookish fun I got into in Sin City.

The primary reason my husband and I were there was to attend Evo 2018, a huge fighting-game tournament held at Mandalay Bay. Between that and the non-stop entertainment that is Las Vegas, I didn’t do as much literary tourism as I’d planned, but I still squeezed some in.

In preparation for the trip, I read Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. I can’t say it made me want to go to Vegas, but the book does a fantastic job depicting the debauchery for which the city is so well known.

One of the many memorable scenes in the book (and the movie) takes place in the Circus Circus hotel and casino, which is still around today, although quite different from the place Thompson experienced.

In the book, he describes it as “what the whole hep world would be doing on a Saturday night if the Nazis had won the war…so you’re down on the main floor playing blackjack, and the stakes are getting high when suddenly you chance to look up, and there, right smack above your head is a half – naked fourteen-year-old girl being chased through the air by a snarling wolverine…”

The Fear and Loathing carousel sans booze and drug-addled Thompson

The Circus Circus I visited was MUCH tamer. There were absolutely no naked trapeze artists flying overhead. In fact, the casino and resort is really geared towards children these days. The one feature mentioned in the book that’s still there is the slots on a rotating carousel. In Thompson’s day, alcohol was served on the merry-go-round, but that hasn’t been the case years now. I’d thought the bar in the upstairs of the two-level carousel had been turned into an ice cream parlor, but when I took a peek, it was completely empty.

I asked a security guard about it and she said there’d been an ice cream parlor a while ago, but the second level has been vacant for quite a while. I was lucky that the carousel was rotating at all. Apparently, it had been sitting still for about a year until a few weeks before my visit.

Overall, the visit to Circus Circus was rather disappointing, but I’m sure if anyone visits and goes for the full Hunter S. Thompson approach (taking “two bags of grass, seventy-five pellets of mescaline, five sheets of high powered blotter acid, a salt shaker half full of cocaine, and a whole galaxy of multi-colored uppers, downers, screamers, laughers… and also a quart of tequila, a quart of rum, a case of Budweiser, a pint of raw ether and two dozen amyls.”) a similar experience to his could still be recreated.

The second literary spot I checked out was Bauman’s Rare Books in the Grand Canal Shoppes in the Venetian |Palazzo. It was AMAZING.  

I couldn’t afford anything, but the children’s librarian in me was elated to be in the same room as first editions of Winnie-the-Pooh ($19,500) and Alice in Wonderland ($23,000). Just for funsies, I asked the bookseller how much the most valuable book in the store would set me back. His answer: a $62,000 first edition, first issue copy of The Fountainhead inscribed by Ayn Rand. At least you’re getting a lot of pages for the price! 🙂

What do I do in Las Vegas? Nerd out at Bauman’s Rare Books, of course!

I wanted to check out one of the public libraries close to the strip, but time and a mounting Lyft bill didn’t allow for it. There were also some spots downtown that I missed — The Writer’s Block indie bookstore and Bad Owl Coffee, which serves Harry Potter-esque bites and beverages — but all that means is I’ll have to come back!

Coming up this weekend: a trip to New York City! There are so many literary possibilities… Stay tuned to hear about them!

Have you checked out any literary sites in Las Vegas? If so, please share your recommendations and experiences in the comments below!

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