Published by Simon & Schuster on November 2nd 1998
Genres: Contemporary, Literary Fiction
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Begun in 1959 by a twenty-two-year-old Hunter S. Thompson, The Rum Diary is a brilliantly tangled love story of jealousy, treachery, and violent alcoholic lust in the Caribbean boomtown that was San Juan, Puerto Rico, in the late 1950s. The narrator, freelance journalist Paul Kemp, irresistibly drawn to a sexy, mysterious woman, is soon thrust into a world where corruption and get-rich-quick schemes rule and anything (including murder) is permissible. Exuberant and mad, youthful and energetic, this dazzling comedic romp provides a fictional excursion as riveting and outrageous as Thompson's Fear and Loathing books.
‘Here I was, living in a luxury hotel, ,racing around a half-Latin city in a toy car that looked like a cockroach and sounded like a jet fighter, sneaking down alleys and humping on the beach, scavenging for food in shark-infested waters, hounded by mobs yelling in a foreign tongue – and the whole thing was taking place in quaint old Spanish Puerto Rico…’
I would guess that in the time that lapsed in this story, a couple tons of rum was consumed. I suppose that explains the title. But serious, these people had to be staggering around drunk all the time. It’s amazing they actually got anything done. Oh wait. That’s right. They didn’t. But considering this story is set in the late 1950’s I suppose that would explain their behavior as well.
“We’re all going to the same damn places, doing the same damn things people have been doing for fifty years, and we keep waiting for something to happen. You know – I’m a rebel, I took off – now where’s my reward?”
“You fool,” I said.” There is no reward and there never was.”
Gritty and raw with a tinge of desperation. Paul Kemp in addition to everyone else he’s become acquainted with since his arrival on the island of Puerto Rico have only ended up there in hopes of escaping to something better. After quickly realizing that Puerto Rico (at the time) is far from their original vision of paradise, the spiteful and bitter attitudes begin making an appearance. It doesn’t take Kemp long to become just as bitter after the realization that a person can work so hard to have a better life, have more money, and to accomplish your dreams and never actually get anything done except wasting time and getting older.
“We keep getting drunk and these terrible things keep happening and each one is worse than the last… Hell, it’s no fun anymore – our luck’s all running out at the same time.”
The Rum Diary is simply that, a diary. There isn’t even that much of a plot, really. It’s almost like a pilot episode, a small glimpse of what’s to come but unfortunately there isn’t any full episode to look forward to. Despite that, I find myself extremely fascinated and I now have an incredibly strong desire to read anything I can get my hands on of Hunter S. Thompson’s. The Rum Diary is his second novel which he wrote at the age of 22 is semi-autobiographical because Hunter himself flew down to Puerto Rico as a journalist to write for a newspaper. Despite writing The Rum Diary in the early 1960’s, it was never actually published until 1998 because no one was interested and he was constantly rejected. Fortunately, he revisited the idea of publishing it several decades later and he finally succeeding in releasing it to the world.