The Rum Diary by Hunter S. Thompson
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is rum, indeed! Very questionable goings on going on here!
I believe this is labeled as fiction, but since Hunter S. Thompson mostly wrote about his experiences, The Rum Diary is probably about as fictional as say Kerouac's On The Road.
Even calling it "semi-autobiographical" is a scary prospect since that means at least some of this horror happened. "Horror" Koivu? ...Well okay, maybe it's lightened by some dark humor, but there are still some pretty awful things that happen herein, take for instance borderline rape.
Having worked for newspapers, I enjoyed living vicariously through the main character Paul Kemp "who, in the 1950s, moves from New York to work for a major newspaper, The Daily News, in San Juan, Puerto Rico." (Wikipedia) The struggle to get the story, the weak pay, oddball co-workers and foreign assignments are all dreams and nightmares of the typical journalist, and so it was easy to slide into a comfort-read with The Rum Diary.
The fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants, care-free living, drinking and nearly dying flowing through out the narrative is very Beat Generation. There's no real goal, no protagonist with any particular object to obtain or obstacle to hurdle. This is not genre writing. This is what was en vogue in the mid 20th century. It's what most of my crusty old writing professors muddled my brain with. "Get with the times! Genre writing is finish, maaan!" I bought it, hook, line and stinker, and so I struggled to come up with novel ideas. Ah, but I'm grudge-grinding and getting off topic.
The brevity of The Rum Diary is what really sells it for me. This kind of compass-less writing (it's not entirely directionless, just occasionally wayward) only holds my attention for so long. Enough interesting things happen between the covers of this slim book to keep me mostly riveted through out and quite willing to recommend it.
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