Quick Reviews

Page added: Mar-08-99
Last updated: Winter 2003

For the person in a hurry...or someone who has left their essay 'til the last minute...here are some short reviews of The Rum Diary, both good and bad. Expect this page to grow as I find more reviews. Main source for these articles was the Ebsco Magazine Index. All dates are in MM/DD/YY format.

Dickerson, Tim, Mother Jones, 12/98, p81

Time passes strangely for journalists and businessmen, two categories of hustlers who spend a lot of time together. Constantly predicting or postmorteming "events" and "results," they willfully ignore the enormous gaps between lived experience and the narration of it. This book is based on Thompson's experiences as a reporter in Puerto Rico in the late '50s and early '60s, was written mostly in the '60s, and was never fully published until now. So it's fitting that for the novel's characters, time passes in picaresque fits and starts. Full of brutal sarcasm and earnest philosophizing, Rum Diary focuses on the liars and "degenerates" who sell dupes on myths of progress and objectivity while pocketing fat fees and swilling rum out of paper cups.

Friedman, Vanessa, Entertainment Weekly, 10/16/98

Years ago, before he started sleeping well into the afternoon and breakfasting on tequila, Hunter S. Thompson, the original gonzo journalist, wrote a novel but couldn't find a publisher and relegated the manuscript to his basement. It's the tale of a young journalist named Paul Kemp who goes to San Juan to be a reporter for the local English-language paper. Once on the island, Kemp doesn't report much; he drinks rum with other journalists and ponders life, love, ambition, and whether anyone is going to live past 30. This is the kind of book that is mostly interesting (and publishable) in hindsight; on first sight, it's little more than a fervent first novel by a young man in thrall to both Hemingway and Kerouac. Which is not to say it's bad, just that if you don't have a kind of anthropological interest in Thompson, it's not a must-read.