Nevermind The Posers

See ya in the pit.

The Rum Diary by Hunter S. Thompson August 18, 2010

A Book Review by Alexander ‘Stigz’ Castiglione

Hunter S. Thompson’s first novel, and consequently a New York Times best seller, was penned by the cult-classic writer when he was only twenty-two years of age.  Although this book isn’t nearly as rampantly repugnant or psychedelically serious as Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, arguably his most famous and prolific work, it still has some of the elements that make Gonzo who he is.

A slow read at first, the book is an obvious tip of the hat to some of Thompson’s contemporaries and literary icons, like F. Scott Fitzgerald, with his short, punchy sentences and occasionally deeply, insightful paragraphs that border on poetry, much like the end of many Fitzgerald chapters.  It also has a hint of Hemingway, with quick, jab-like sentences, ranging from ultra-descriptive to borderline innocuous.  Literary style aside, the book picks up slowly; be warned.

However, by halfway through if you stick with it; you start to get the taste of Thompson we all know: A tinge of disdain after the shots of rum and short explosions of literary fury.  The book, without giving too much away, builds up, only to come crashing down – a tired tragedy of the under-worked, over-drinking journalist in the tropics.  At this point, the story starts to burn like a shot of cheap whiskey with no chaser – much like Gonzo’s writing and very much like his lifestyle.  Truth be told, the story, much like other American literature coming out of the mid 20th century, is almost entirely character based with the plot being driven completely by the actions of the round and dynamic players in the novel, like the scheming editor Lotterman, or the beautiful boozehound Chenault.  If you’re looking for an easy read, this may not be it, as you have to form these detailed mental images from the pages of the brawling drunks, shady cantinas, and blistering tropical sun on your own, and keep those images held tight.  He consistently references characters whom the reader hasn’t met in the past twenty or thirty pages; therefore, you have to stay on your toes when reading.  This is not for the Dan Brown crowd – yearning for a page turner to pass the subway ride.

In short, I can’t tell you much about the story without giving away the good parts but I can tell you that unless you are a fan of Gonzo journalism, written accounts of drunken debauchery and rum-soaked lust, you may not like this.  However, for all you fans of underground classics like J.G. Ballard’s Cocaine Nights and F. Scott Fitzgerald fiends alike, you’ll pound this book back like a cold shot of rum.  After all, this is just the diary to read for that.

Overall: 3/5 Shots


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