Book Review: ‘The Rum Diary’
I enjoy reading, as some of you may well know, and I frequently rave about books that I have read, yet this book has had something of an impact on my life; firstly, it has driven me to seek out more writings by the author; secondly, it has caused me to feel the need to write a review, which will follow.
This is a short and easy to read book, but one that’s hard to put down.
The Rum Diary - Hunter S Thompson (1998)
'The Rum Diary' has its own backstory, a sort of ode to lost writings. It was written, it is thought, in 1959, when Thompson, himself, moved to San Juan to report for El Sportivo, which, much like the fictional San Juan Star in the book, folded not long after. The actual San Juan Star had turned down Thompson when he applied for a job.
The book remained unpublished - and possibly unread - for nearly 40 years, until 1998, when it was uncovered by none other than Johnny Depp - an actor who subsequently forced Bruce Robinson out of retirement to direct the film adaptation which Depp starred in.
The story is a first person narrative documenting the life of journalist, Paul Kemp. It begins the day he sets foot on the plane for San Juan and ends with his departure, back to New York.
It is a brilliantly written, rum addled, journalistic narrative, with much detail on women, alcohol and breakfast. Kemp’s internal dialogue draws you in, and frequently I heard Kemp’s pensive voice as my own. He’s a brooding character, lacking direction; tired uncertainty but scared to be pinned down.
The other characters in the story are equally tired, drunk and socially unfit; some are greed mongers, others merely passing through and trying to pay for their rum along the way.
As the story progresses, the characters become more sick of the stifling indifference of their lives and path we are following becomes darker and the veneer of society, the vision of the American Dream, crumbles away.
Overall, an engaging and astute read about societal breakdown under tensions such as sex, money and alcohol, written it a colourful and journalistic style with enough Caribbean sun to get you through the winter.