Monday, July 15, 2013

Hunter S. Thompson - The Rum Diary, A Review


In old Puerto Rico. . .a journalist came to write


Cover, The Rum Diary, by Hunter.S. Thompson


Paul Kemp, the main character of this novel, arrives in Puerto Rico to claim a job with a local English newspaper. This is a time when men hustled to get in on the booming travel trade in Puerto Rico. The Yanqui presence is becoming a nuisance. Expatriates sit and wait in the bars, and tourists in the hotels pretend they are somewhere more exotic.  Locals are just starting to recognize labor unions and most of the local police are unreliable.

Kemp spends part of his time at the local beer and burger bar, a gathering place for the more eccentric of the journalists. He needs to work. The main setting for the story is the newspaper office, where most of the writers are 'on the edge', erratic, and unpredictable. It's no wonder, as the newspaper resembles a sinking ship.

This is very much the masculine tale related by a sharp mind. Excessive drinking is a daily occurrence in this story, and women are treated as an aside, in minor roles. A couple of intimate scenes do show up in the novel, but are written with a heavy-handed approach consistent with the times. Thompson is better at the hard-hitting manly stuff.

American literature includes many who don't fit the established mold, but yet they manage to make a ripple in the publishing world. Thompson ruffled some and annoyed others, but he amused a lot of his readers.

***

Hunter S. Thompson, in his twenties when he wrote The Rum Diary, was an author who changed our perception of everyday life and politics in the USA. His publisher was Simon and Schuster. Thompson wrote for several newspapers in his early days and began writing fiction in the mid-1960s. Gonzo journalism was his specialty.

'Gonzo' reporting is a style of journalism that doesn't claim to be strictly objective, but rather is a more personal/subjective viewpoint, often written in first person. Use of sarcasm, wit, and irreverent attitudes is encouraged.

Thompson is best known for Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas...a look at the failure of the 60s counterculture movement from his viewpoint. The story was serialized in Rolling Stone (magazine) and released as a film in 1998 with Johnny Depp as Thompson. Depp shadowed Thompson to study his mannerisms and speech patterns, the details that made the man.

The author died from a gunshot wound to the head, February 20, 2005, in Woody Creek, Colorado at his private compound. He was suffering at the time from several medical conditions, and adjusting to a hip replacement. RIP, Hunter S. Thompson.

***

Have you read any writing by this controversial author? Have you heard of Thompson and his Gonzo journalism style? Did you know Hunter wrote for the Rolling Stone magazine? Or that the Doonesbury cartoon strip called him 'Raoul or Uncle Duke' in its character depiction of the man?

Please share in the comments, and thanks for stopping by!

****

References:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hunter_S._Thompson The author

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Rum_Diary_(novel) The Rum Diary wiki

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gonzo_journalism Gonzo journalism

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fear_and_Loathing_in_Las_Vegas_(film) The J. Depp movie

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raoul_Duke About the character


44 comments:

  1. 'tourists in the hotels pretend they are somewhere more exotic.'

    :)


    'women are treated as an aside, in minor roles.'

    My first response was :(. Then I gave it a bit more thought and wondered what this says more about the author than the women in his fiction and his life.

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    1. You got it Suze. Similar attitudes towards women were prevalent in the time Thompson wrote this. It says a lot about the author. That comment about the tourists is from a character in the story. The one about women is mine.

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  2. I'd heard the term Gonzo Journalism but didn't know what it meant. I think I see a lot of it on TV.
    I've never read his stuff and it sounds like it's not for me.

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    1. Right Susan, the journalists of that time did influence a more 'honest' (or personal) portrayal of the news.

      Thompson set a bar by which to measure for irreverent style. But, he did expose us to a world many of us might not know about, otherwise.

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  3. Haven't read any of his stuff or seen the Depp movies. I have seen a few quotes and he was a unique character.

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    1. This is the first book of his I've finished, and I have seen most of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, the movie, with Depp. Depp makes Hunter more acceptable, IMO. Unique is a good word, LG, he is known to have been 'slightly' eccentric.

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  4. See a couple of the movies but not read his books. Chuck at Apocalypse Now had a whole series on Thompson during this year's A to Z Challenge.

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    1. I'll have to check that out, Alex. I missed out on the A to Z this year.

      Hubs has read all of Thompson's work, so I know what a unique person the author could be.

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  5. I'm in the same boat as LG--I haven't read his books or seen the movies. But I know his style and eccentric life captivate a lot of people. Maybe I'll take a walk on the wild side with him this summer!

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    1. I saw this book at the library we visit, and decided to give it a try. I knew of his notoriety. But there's always two sides. It was an easy book to read and kept me turning the pages.

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  6. I haven't read anything of his, but have always wanted to. Being from Colorado, I remember his death and the reporting of it well - big deal around here. A good friend gave me "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" just haven't had the time...
    Tina @ Life is Good

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    1. I always like reading more about a person who's had a large lifestyle. How did they get that way? Circumstance?

      Just leave that in your TBR or viewed pile. This book was an easy read, I read a bit every morning with my coffee.

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  7. I've heard of him, but I've never read anything by him. I didn't even see the movie. Sounds like he was one of the last of a dying breed....

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  8. Like a lot of others who already commented, I knew ABOUT him, but I never felt compelled to read his work. Maybe if I see one of his books at the library next time I go, I'll pick it up, but I still don't feel inclined to buy any.

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    1. I read a broad range of authors, and sometimes one book is all it takes to know if you want to read more or not. But to understand an author's writing, I have to give them a chance and read one book. I like to know what makes people tick. Or not.

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  9. he sounds like an interesting person, i think i would like to read about him :)

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    1. He's an interesting person, in that he didn't always conform, and for him, it made a difference. I think he was originally from your part of the country (he was born in Kentucky). Check the link below, Lynn.

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  10. His life was in many ways tragic. The death of his father left his family in poverty. He was unable to finish high school, for he spent 60 days in jail for abetting a robbery.

    His fame was made from the publication of Hell's Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs (1967), for which he had spent a year living and riding with the Angels, experiencing their lives and hearing their stories first hand.

    He was also known for his lifelong use of alcohol and illegal drugs; his love of firearms, and his iconoclastic contempt for authoritarianism, and remarked that, "I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they've always worked for me."

    While suffering a bout of health problems, Thompson committed suicide at the age of 67. As per his wishes, his ashes were fired out of a cannon in a ceremony funded by his friend, Johnny Depp.

    His life is as riveting as anything he wrote. Did you see the movie, THE RUM DIARY?

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    1. No, I haven't seen the movie, Roland, but one daughter said I should, since I've seen Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and now, have read the Rum Diary. Hunter did have a tragic life, and I did say, 'he lived life LARGE'.

      Most people have heard of Thompson, but many haven't read his books or his writings, some of which were spot on. He's another tragic tale in the writer category, but he did leave us his legacy of a country in turmoil.

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  11. "We were somewhere around Barstow, at the edge of the desert, when the drugs began to take hold." lol...
    I love Hunter! I've read and seen Fear and Loathing and the Rum Diary and I loved both, but more so Fear and Loathing. Johnny Depp was excellent in his portrayal of Hunter.
    I was so sad the day I heard of Mr. Thompson's suicide, but I guess I was not surprised. He was definitely a unique voice in a forest of clones.
    Gonzo journalism is a fantastic style, love it!
    Thanks for this DG, and now, in remembrance of Hunter, I'm going to.......to.....awww hell! I was going to say that I'll have a vodka shot, but I gave up drinking years ago!

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    1. Hi Eve, My purpose is to introduce those who haven't read Thompson to one of his books. The more we read, the more we learn. Glad you could relate to the post.
      Hope your summer is going well.

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  12. What a fascinating story and life. I'll have to check this book out.

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    1. These personality types can be useful for characterization, and who knows what you can learn reading about another writer's experiences.

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  13. I was always a fan of his. I studied him in a pop culture course in college and I was hooked. I began reading his books back then (a really long time ago)

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    1. He could be quite flamboyant. I recently read a book written by two close friends of his, which seemed to paint a photo of a guy used to 'holding court'. I prefer to read his books, rather than books about him.

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  14. Hi DG .. I know of his name - and probably realised he fell into the typical hard journalist style of man .. but I've never read anything by him.

    I imagine the book is an interesting insight into life of those times ... and of early Puerto Rico ..

    Thanks for your hat comment! Mark Koopmans had spotted the change, but I hadn't posted the latest post ..

    Depp is amazing at the characters he's taken on .. cheers Hilary

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    1. The radio station in our area is awaiting news of the new baby, too. Hats look good on you.

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  15. Haven't read anything yet by Thompson, but now I want to. Should probably branch out of my spec-fic bubble every now and then, right?

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    1. I like to branch out, to see what a writer's works 'are made of'. I notice the journalistic influences. In this book, Thompson is still early in his career. (before his celebrity days)

      It's a manly read, Milo. It's a quick read, and not too political, as some of his stories could be.

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  16. I have read a couple of his books, including Rum Diaries, which I have here somewhere. There was something sad about Hunter Thompson, I think.

    I also wanted to let you know that apples grow here, not here in the desert canyon, but all around our town, because we are located at 4,000 ft. Lilacs, apples, cherries, and wine grow very well here.

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    1. I think Thompson wanted to be writer first, then got lost in the celebrity web, where you must perform to stay relevant. Remember the cigarette holder and the dashing hats?

      Thanks for the clarification, Inger. I guess at that height, there's enough coolness to grow fruits.

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  17. I have not read any of Thompson's books. It sounds like he has a rather unique voice.

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    1. Yes, he does have a distinctive voice. His newspaper writing style bleeds a bit into his fiction writing.

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  18. I haven't written his work, but now I want to.
    The ship reference sounds intriguing and I have always wanted to know what it would be like working for a newspaper~

    Nice review!
    :D

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    1. Consider this newspaper is in Puerto Rico, and it's a heavily male scene; it will be different than a city news room.

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  19. I haven't read any of this author's works, but I think I'd like to. Anything gritty where I can learn about other lands, other cultures, works for me. Thanks for the review.

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    1. He's gritty. Keep in mind that he was a newspaperman, like Hemingway, and he knows how to inject tension.

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  20. I haven't read his works either. It seems his characters were as fascinating as Thompson. Well done review, DG. Thank you.

    xoRobyn

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    1. He seems to have made a few well-placed friends along the way. He was a character himself.

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  21. Good review. I haven't read Thompson's works, but this book sounds like it captures a whole world and era. And I agree with Robyn, he sounds like a fascinating character himself.

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    1. He definitely captured the times in some of his articles, because as he said, he became part of what was being reported and told it from an insider's viewpoint.

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  22. I've heard of this book, but never read it. He sounds like a most fascinating gentleman.

    So many great books, so little time. Shame.

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