‘Beer and Loathing’ a cynical gut-buster

Nicole Dinten

He’s no Holden Caulfield, but Keith Strausbaugh certainly has a coming-of-age tale out of his new autobiography, “Beer and Loathing in Panama City: A Bloodthirsty Spring Break Exodus.”

As far as spring break stories go, the stereotypical plethora of booze, babes and bad decisions are as plentiful as the laughter that Strausbaugh provides.

In “Beer and Loathing,” Straughsbaugh and seven college friends from Virginia Tech take a road trip down to Panama City to embark on what they have been looking forward to: an epic week of debauchery.

He recalls the drive to their destination, full of run-ins with the police and other foreboding signs indicating that they should turn around and forget the trip. When they arrive, things don’t go as planned, and the luxury suite that they expected turns out to be eight guys crammed into a six-person condo.

The week itself is loaded with experiences with the homeless, conversations with illegal immigrants, making fun of girls, making out with girls, throwing hamburgers off a balcony into a hot tub and fights with Christian groups.

After a traumatic incident with some hair removal products, by the end of the trip there are only five guys left.

The week mentally and physically drains Strausbaugh and his fellow spring breakers, and they realize that the after-effects of a week-long series of misbehavior are not pretty.

“We went to war with winos and limped away with our livers in slings,” writes Strausbaugh.

Strausbaugh’s harrowing experiences help him come to a realization about life and leave him a better, wiser man.

For Strausbaugh, his “Beer and Loathing” experience is unreal. It is a dream which cannot exist in the day-to-day real world of 9-5ers.

As a writer, Strausbaugh’s overeducated yet hilariously cynical style is reflected in the way he tells his crazy Spring Break stories.

His long sentences seem like intoxicated ramblings. But if you can get past the detailed descriptions of every person and situation, you will learn that they are merely part of the genius in his writing style.

He will have you laughing out loud and falling out of your seat.

In “Beer and Loathing,” characters are not important but experiences are. There is no thick plot which needs deciphering, nor do the characters really develop throughout the story.

Yet, by the end of the trip, there is a light transformation in tone as a whole when the Spring Break-goers realize their trip has come to an end and they have to go back into the world of responsibilities and deadlines with mere memories of Panama City.

Though the stories and one-liners in “Beer and Loathing” can be crude and cynical at times, they will have you in tears laughing as much as they make you blush.

A quick, hilarious page-turner, “Beer and Loathing in Panama City” is the perfect read if you are looking for something short and perhaps a little un-sweet.