The Rum Diary Paperback – 4 Oct 2011
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|Paperback, 4 Oct 2011||
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"Disgusting as he usually was," Hunter Thompson writes in this, his 1959 novel, "on rare occasions he showed flashes of a stagnant intelligence. But his brain was so rotted with drink and dissolute living that whenever he put it to work it behaved like an old engine that had gone haywire from being dipped in lard." Surprise! Thompson isn't writing about himself, but one of the other, older, aimlessly carousing newspapermen in Puerto Rico, a guy called Moberg whose chief achievement is the ability to find his car after a night's drinking because it stinks so much. (I can smell it for blocks, he boasts.) The autobiographical hero, Paul Kemp, is 30, trapped in a dead-end job (Thompson wound up writing for a bowling magazine) and feeling as if his big-time writer dreams, soaked in F. Scott- Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway, are evaporating as rapidly as the rum in his fist.
In fact, Thompson was only 22 when he wrote The Rum Diary, but his fear of winding up like Moberg was well founded. What saved him was the fantastic conflagration of the 1960s, a fiery wind on which the reptilian wings of his prose style could catch and soar to the cackling heights of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Puerto Rico in 1959 doesn't have bad craziness enough to offer Thompson--just a routine drunken reporter stomping by local cops and a riot over Kemp's friend's temptress girlfriend, a scantily imagined Smith College alumna who likes to strip nude on beaches and in nightclubs to taunt men.
Thompson's prose style only intermittently takes tentative flight-- compare the stomping scenes in this book with his breakthrough, Hell's Angels --but it's interesting to see him so nakedly reveal his sensitive innards, before the celebrated clownish carapace grew in. It's also interesting to see how he improved this full version of the novel from the more raw (and racist) excerpts found in the 1990 collection Songs of the Doomed --Tim Appelo, Amazon.com --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
Crackling, twisted, searing, paced to a deft prose rhythm
a shot of Gonzo with a rum chaser -- San Francisco Chronicle
Hilarious, utterly real and tragic A lithe, well-crafted gem of a novel which leaves the reader disturbed and grinning -- Scotland on Sunday
Remarkable - a genuine, 100% proof discovery of great literary importance -- Mail on Sunday
Wild, witty, angry, cynical and sarcastic A funny book that will make your life seem boring by comparison -- Scene --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
You may have heard of Thompson's "FEAR & LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS" which was made into a film with Johnny Depp + Benicio Del Toro in 1998. This, Thompson's first novel, bares some similarities, although the drug intake is a little tamer + the general feel of the book is a little more laidback.
It chronicles the drunken antics of budding journalist Paul Kemp during the late 50s in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Kemp is a thinly disguised Thompson, (the novel being very close to autobiographical), who starts work for the San Juan Daily News, a paper which is constantly on the brink of bankruptcy due to its corrupt, degenerate + drug addled staff.
It is because of the town's gradual intake of American greedmongers + social misfits that there is a growing sense of unrest among the locals who have begun to want the paper + its staff off the island.
To add to this cocktail are the sultriest, most maddening charms to appear on a written page, in the shape of hard-partying but tragic blonde Chenault, the girlfriend of one of Kemp's colleagues. The summer heat + mounting tension become more enveloping + intense with every turn of the page, masterfully turning Kemp's copious consumption of rum into a thoroughly riveting read..
'TRD' is a fascinating book, especially for Thompson fans. Although the voice is distinctively his, it was written before he had his hopes raised and dashed by the social revolution of the sixties. Consequently the 'American Dream' was yet to be extinguished and the Thompson of 'TRD' is still very much in search of it. However, his disillusionment with his home country is clear. Initially the Puerto Ricans are portrayed unfavourably but, as the book progresses, we see that it is the American journalists who are dangerously unstable, typified by the violent Yeamon and his volatile girlfriend, as well as the more refined but no less odious Zimburger. 'TRD' is a kind of 'Heart of Darkness', as the image of the civilised American disintegrates into an orgy of drinking and violence..
I enjoyed 'TRD' a lot. It is brutal proto-Thompson. Perhaps it is a more likeable, even heroic, Thompson than his later books, but it is still easily identifiable as the cynical and weary journalist. It is less funny than his later works, but well written and enthralling. This is where Thompson's journey into the heart of American darkness began, and should be widely read for that alone.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Thompsons best writing, this book should be read by everyone who thinks Fear And Loathing is HST's high pointPublished 1 month ago by Lonely Boy
Not as breathtaking as Fear and Loathing in LV, but great fun nonetheless. Wide scattering of adverbs works well, and shoots literary Gestapo right up the arse, in my view.Published 4 months ago by Tamborrada
4 stars for the book, 2 stars for the film, Johnny Depp spoils itPublished 4 months ago by D. George
Harsh, unremitting and brilliant - Thompson at his best, writing with real verve and feeling. So good you can almost feel the cloying heat and taste the booze...Published 5 months ago by Allan One
Another triumph of the life of Hunter S. Thompson by Hunter S. Thompson ....... A drunken part of his life expressed perfectlyPublished 7 months ago by Ross Emerick