I just finished reading The Rum Diary by Hunter S. Thompson — perhaps best known for Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. This book was recommended to me by Dixon and I jumped into it with little knowledge of Thompson’s style, and the fact that Johnny Depp’s mug is on the cover since he starred in the feature film was also a timely encourager.
Overall, this book was a shattered illusion most of all. When I talked to Dixon about the book after I finished it, one thing that we both came to separately is that the book takes your idea of a perfect vacation (drink in hand, toes in the sand…you get the picture) and carries it out in a way that it becomes the normal. And the days blended into nights of drunken debauchery lead to serious consequences, one more frightening and life-shattering than the next.
The book chronicles a New York City transplant’s journalistic foray into writing for an island news source in Puerto Rico. My research tells me it was actually written in 1950 but not published until 1998 — which explains why my shock over just hopping on a Pan Am flight without so much as a real ticket wasn’t unfounded. Said journalist (Paul Kemp) fumbles into the island lifestyle maniacally, alcoholicly (I made that word up), and violently.
Overall, the tale is a string of drunken remembrances, impotent desires, and an insatiable lust that no manner of sex or drink can appease. After I finished it, I felt unsettled. Unsettled is perhaps the perfect lingering feeling that Thompson leaves on the final page but that did not make me dislike the tale. It was just a different style, a not so neatly wrapped package of a story, and one that made me wonder if the illusion and lure of the island life and all that would encompass that vision truly does lose its shimmer after time. Of course, the answer is yes. And that is a sad thought…