Justin Tobin's Reviews > The Rum Diary

The Rum Diary by Hunter S. Thompson
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Aug 16, 12

Read on August 15, 2012

I started this novel yesterday, and just finished it now. I wanted to watch the film last night, but decided I'd like to read the novel first. Apparently this novel was written in the 1960s, but not published until the 1990s. I really enjoyed it; couldn't stop reading all morning, afternoon and evening, only stopping to eat.
This novel revolves around American men working for a newspaper located in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and narrated by the main character, Paul Kemp. It focuses mainly on the characters who go by the names of Kemp, Yeamon, and Sala. Sala is a staff photographer for the newspaper. A large - perhaps the vast majority - of the novel is about their contempt for their close-minded boss, having beer and hamburgers at a bar called Al's Backyard, and their drunken outings that lead them to being persecuted - I hesitate to say prosecuted - by violent police officers. A picture of the trio appears on the cover of another newspaper after they are arrested and charged. One character has his image on the front of a newspaper for a second time, but I won't write which one. While not at work, most of their leisure time is spent drinking and partying.
Another significant character is Chenault, a blonde American woman who catches Kemp's eye at the beginning of the novel while they are both boarding a plane to Puerto Rico. She eventually dates Yeamon, but the couple has no problem swimming naked with Kemp and sleeping naked on the beach together while Kemp watches enviously. There is a very intense part of the novel dedicated to an outing with her, Yeamon and Kemp to the island of St. Thomas.
There is a lot of alcohol consumption in this novel, and I haven't yet pondered if it has some meaningful symbolism, or what that symbolism may be. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas - which I haven't read yet - is another novel written by Hunter S. Thomas, but that one deals with psychedelic drug use. Paul Kemp wonders if he will go into the DTs while at the Caribe Hilton. He drinks a satisfying amount of ale before he boards a plane from New York to Puerto Rico, but most of the alcohol that is consumed by the characters throughout the novel is rum - it is titled The Rum Diary, after all. The consumption is not detailed, but mentioned casually in the novels' prose, as if it is insignificant to the story. Perhaps it is.
Overall, great novel. I'm gonna watch the film adaptation tonight.

Update: I just finished watching the film adaptation. It is a very well made and entertaining film, both comedic - I let out some loud laughs - and dramatic. There are not only minor differences such are there being hallucinogenic drug use in the film but not in the novel, but the film drastically deviates from the novel with it's characters, plot points and the overall story. Eventually I knew I was watching an entirely different story unfold. I argue that the novel was inspiration for the screenplay writer, and I like that there was a dedication to Hunter S. Thompson at the end. You can't know the story in the novel by watching the film, but it is a very good film overall.
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