I remember picking up the Hunter S. Thompson classic “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” as a teenager and becoming instantly engrossed. That was without having read a single word, or even opening the cover. That image of two obviously unhinged individuals driving through the desert promised a very strange trip. Luckily for the generations of readers, and writers, that he inspired, Thompson was more than able to deliver on that cover’s promise.
Unfortunately, Hunter Thompson decided to unplug a couple of years ago, but the man who illustrated his work so well, Ralph Steadman, is still with us, and still has the ability to enthrall with his work. Drinkers of Flying Dog beers or Bonny Doon wines are familiar with some of his more recent work because he does their humorous, stylized, and slightly disturbing labels. He also wrote a fine book entitled, “The Grapes of Ralph: Wine According to Ralph Steadman.”
Yesterday my wife gave me his latest book, “Untrodden Grapes” as a gift. This is a coffee table book filled with Steadman’s sketches from his wine travels. Many of his images, as always, are a mixture of beauty and unhinged wit, both insightful and disturbing, but always interesting. The big surprise is how many page turns bring only beauty.
Clearly in love with his subject, Steadman has put together a book that compels one to keep turning the pages despite wanting to spend more time examining the current page more deeply. I predict that I will be studying each image in depth for many years to come. This book is fascinating.