Travel literature review: Fear of Hat Loss in Las Vegas

Fear of Hat Loss in Las Vegas by Brendon Burns

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Reviewed by Wayne Murphy

If you’ve ever been flipping though channels on the television and become interested in a film only because of a laundry list of classification warnings such as 'depictions of drug use', 'frequent profanity', and 'sexually explicit content', then Brendon BurnsFear of Hat Loss in Las Vegas may just be the book for you.

Sure, the characters consume more magic mushrooms than would render an elephant comatose, seemingly stagger their way through life propelled by pure libido and raw liquor, and curse in a manner that would make a sailor blush, but to categorise this book as merely an extreme boys-own-adventure would be a crucial error. Part road-trip, part cautionary tale, and part guidebook to enlightenment, the tale is unrelentingly hilarious and bittersweet by turns, with an emphasis at times on bitter over sweetness. Peel back the thick veneer of profanity and indolence, and you’ll discover a tale with surprising insight and unexpected tenderness.

Burns, an Australian comedian with a history of manic depression and in-your-face comedic performances, has crafted a tale not only full of ribald humour, but replete with brotherly (and fatherly) camaraderie, riotous anecdotes, and a profound search for meaning in an often random and fickle world. Burns’ tale takes him and two friends – American actor/comedian Paul Provenza and British comic Barry Castagnola) – on a drug- and booze-fuelled odyssey from Los Angeles to Las Vegas with Barry’s long-suffering father Keith in tow.

Inspired by a nocturnal revelation, Burns leads the others on a quest for the perfect photograph to reflect a moment of sublime grace that at times seems like it will exist only in his dreams, and soothe his friend Barry’s heartache in the process. This true story drags the reader kicking, screaming and chortling onwards as the unlikely quartet seek to fulfil Burns’ vision, encountering hookers, bouncers, a UFO, and the best and worst that Vegas has to offer.

Usually what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, but this is one time when you will be glad that this adage has been force-fed Drambuie and crystal meth, and coerced into giving up its secrets.

Wayne Murphy is a cartographic designer who works in Lonely Planet’s Melbourne office. His first trip overseas saw him on a solo visit to Las Vegas where his experiences with alcohol, drug use and illegal prostitution were of the purely hypothetical variety.

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