Thursday, March 28, 2019

The Rum Diary

Hunter S. Thompson wrote the novel The Rum Diary during his time in Puerto Rico. He befriended journalists employed at The San Juan Star (The Star) which provides inspiration for this novel. In Thompson's story, the protagonist Paul Kemp works at The San Juan Daily News (The News). Written in first-person, the novel was completed when he was 22 years old. Still, it wasn't published until he revised it 40 years later. 


A good audio version of the book can be listened to here.

A modern take from a tourist who is looking for Hunter Thompson's experience' in Puerto Rico can be found here (article). It's worth reading to question how contemporary audiences make connections to Puerto Rico.

The novel romanticizes the difficulties of the past, celebrates drinking and the freedom to express violence toward misunderstood others. No doubt the unfavorable portrayals of locals and tourists alike are riveting.
The film captures what it can of the novel but they are different experiences. Johnny Depp's personality, mixed with Paul Kemp's persona, creates someone quite different from the protagonist in the novel.  Depp's updated take seems to have more sensitivity to Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans; whereas, the young Thompson portrays middle-aged women or rebellious coworkers at The News, with cruelly sharp and revolting images.



“Happy," I muttered, trying to pin the word down. But it is one of those words, like Love, that I have never quite understood. Most people who deal in words don’t have much faith in them and I am no exception – especially the big ones like Happy and Love and Honest and Strong. They are too elusive and far to relative when you compare them to sharp, mean little words like Punk and Cheap and Phony. I feel at home with these, because they’re scrawny and easy to pin, but the big ones are tough and it takes either a priest or a fool to use them with any confidence.” 
― Hunter S. Thompson, The Rum Diary

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