on 29 April 2005
For your next beach holiday, forget your suntan lotion + order this. There is enough sun, sand + Caribbean rum in this novel to keep you going through the winter.
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..
on 9 July 2007
Hunter makes you feel in this short novel that you are the protagonist, and that it is you who is experiencing the craziness of Carribbean nights and parties, the rum, the fear, the uncertainty, the laissez-faire article writing, the beautiful girl. It is an adventure, and one worth having. If you are looking for escapism, this is it. If you are looking for quality writing, this is it. If you're looking for a good story, this is it.
on 31 December 2005
'TRD' was written in 1959 (though not published until the 1990s) and tells the story of Hunter Thompson's time working for a newspaper in Puerto Rico. Thompson (under the guise of Jack Kemp), joins a small staff of hard-drinking US expats misbehaving on the Carribean island, and finds himself doing much more boozing and partying than actual journalism. 'TRD' follows his chaotic lifestyle, as well as that of his colleagues, as the newspaper falls apart and their veneer of civilisation crumbles.
'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.
on 7 April 2002
This novel was written by Thompson in 1959, when he was only 22 and was probably yet to put the words "fear" and "loathing" into a sentence together. Only recently was the manuscript found and published, and well worth the 40 year wait it is, this is the great Hunter S. showing very definite early signs of his full potential and brilliance. Paul Kemp is how Thompson saw himself in 10 years time; drinking heavily and sweating a lot in some hot foreign paradise. He first arrives in Puerto rico after an alcohol fueled wrestling match on a plane with an old man who obstructs his view of a young blonde he has his eye on, and the first thing his new employer does is to ask him if he is a pervert, telling him that one more pervert at the newspaper would be the last straw. you can almost hear Kemp asking himself what the hell he is doing here amidst his laid back commentary. Along the way he befriends a terminal cynic, a mad bisexual, and a massive violent nut, who enjoys twisting heads...and these are just his fellow journalists. Thompson here lays out exactly how hard it is to survive and make a healthy living in a place like Puerto Rico, and all through a cloud of rum. Sheer Brilliance
on 26 January 2012
I regret not reading The Rum Diaries when it was first released , and it's taken the release of the movie to prompt me , to read the book. The Rum diaries is a great refreshing read like the breaks of the Caribbean ocean. Based in the late fifties on the sundrenched latin American Caribbean island of Puerto Rico and centred around a group of quite hedonistic American journalists , based in Sanjuan as they survive on a diet of litres of rum, junk food at seedy bars, and an extreme social life including skinny dipping in the Caribbean surf. The plot and pace flow compulsively in this classic which is an easy read not to be missed.
on 26 January 2005
I live in the south of Spain and am sick of nice books by bored rich people who moved to places like this and had no problems more serious than not being able to find the right colour paint to go in their villas. These people don't realize that hot countries with nice beaches are all full of corrupt local councils and ex pat drunkards desperately trying to convince themselves and everyone else that they are or at least were scary and important back home. Thompson realized this at a young age and aparrently made a comment about how this book in a twisted way would promote San Juan. Anyone who has watched the likes of "Under the Tuscan sun" or "Shirley Valentine" and actually fell for that blind idealism really should cop a load of this.
Written when the author was little more than twenty and based on personal experience, this is the tale of Paul Kemp, cynical, hard-drinking journalist who takes up a post on the San Juan Daily News, a rag produced on the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico.
At first I was reluctant to read this book group choice, imagining it would be a prolonged drunken rant. Although said to be an example of "gonzo" journalism - "bizarre, crazy, exaggerated, subjective and fictionalized style" to use a dictionary definition, from the outset I was struck by Hunter Thompson's remarkably spare and lucid, razor-sharp style ( for one who is rarely sober) and the sense of anticipation that something interesting is going to happen. In fact, the book is short enough for one not to feel let down by the slightness of the plot which is not really the point.
As you might hope for a reporter, Thompson is very strong on creating a sense of place : "old Spanish Puerto Rico..where one part of the city looked like Tampa (Florida) and the other ....like part of a medieval asylum". The whole paragraph is much better than this but too long to quote. Or there is the description of his drive to a friend's house during which he encounters for the first time the native Puerto Rico: "I was not prepared for the sand road.. I went the whole way in low gear, running over land crabs, creeping... through deep stagnant puddles, bumping and jolting in ruts and chuckholes..."
This is a backwater that attracts conmen, petty crooks, failures and drifters, like Kemp - all at times subjected to his remarkably perceptive analysis for such a young man. The author describes very effectively the kind of disillusion with small town America that drives a man to travel the world, uncertain what he is seeking, often making astute observations, but always a rootless outsider.
At times I grew tired of the drunkenness, which led to some unsavoury if realistic incidents: the looting of a liquor store during a carnival, which reminded me of the UK city riots of 2011, or a man casually beating up his girlfriend. I could not work out whether the chauvinism displayed to some extent by Kemp and even more so by his wild colleague Yeamon was an unconscious product of the 1950s or meant to be a parody of male insensitivity.
I could not say that I liked this book, but the quality of the writing impressed me. I could have wished he had applied this talent to a less drink-sodden world. He would probably have said that the rum helped him to write. Yet he was all too aware of the "quiet deadly ticking of a thousand hungry clocks, the lonely sound of time passing" and perhaps being wasted, but he lacked the will power to avoid this.
on 12 March 2001
What can I say? I was lucky enough to be reading this book whilst on a beach in the middle of the pacific ocean and it gave me a great thirst. Having listened to the almost idylic lifestyle that Hunter S Thompson was living throughout this book; Work when he felt like, fresh lobster, sex, and booze. Oh, and of course lots of rum. I felt obliged, almost mystically drawn to go to the bar and drink a heck of a lot of rum. Any book that can make this impact must be good as far as I'm concerned.
on 8 January 2014
This is a great little book, fantastic story. Its much more accessible than the more vaunted Fear and Loathing, and seems to me to be far less disjointed - its much better structured than F and L which almost seems like a listing of a series of things that happened to Thompson. Would highly recommend this book, and makes me want to get away from it all.
on 1 December 2002
Yes, this is good. Hunter S. Thompson's best book works well on audio; Campbell Scott (veteran American actor of Daytrippers for example) does the novel full justice.
The book, incase you didn't know, was written by Thompson when he was around 25, something like that, and was re-discovered a few years ago. It is quite unlike the frenzied, humorous Gonzo stuff that made Thompson so famous/loved. This is sensitive, thoughtful prose, inspired by Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises (check it out for comparisons/contrasts). The Rum Diary is about the commercialisation of South America, among other things - the scarring of the beaches with fat-cat hotels (check out Curse of Lono for continuation of this theme in Thompson's work, or Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas for that matter). But enough of that. This audio tape is abridged, which is a shame, but not heavily. In short, the story remains intact, and is well written and well spoken. I would strongly recommend you buy this audio tape; you will listen to it again and again.