Monday, October 31, 2011

Review: The Rum Diary

Like any respectable pop culture junkie, I went through my Hunter S. Thompson phase.  I chose Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas for an independent reading assignment in my junior year of high school and found a soft spot for all things Gonzo.  This means that no, I can’t hear “White Rabbit” without requesting that someone attempt an electrocution at the song’s climax.  Please, that goes without saying.  It also means that yes, I’ve read Thompson’s ‘long lost’ novel.  When I read The Rum Diary oh so long ago, the impression it left was one befitting of a work by Mr. Thompson: it comes in flashbacks and waves; tangible short bursts and colorful scenes without incident.  The book itself is muddled, but enjoyable enough.  There are plenty of bright pieces and memorable tableaux to be found: the drinking, the girl, the carnival, the decrepit newspaper and laboring masses; alcohol-soaked Puerto Rico remembered through a hangover-like daze of poorly linked, often humorous incidents.  The Rum Diary, in my opinion, was never a story to be taken as a cohesive work with a straight narrative arc.    Instead, it’s something tangled and a little broken, an early attempt by a young author loaded up like a jumbled pile of stained postcards from the edge.  Perhaps you love it, perhaps you find it listless, perhaps you simply don’t care (in which case, I wouldn’t recommend bothering).  Any which way you approach it,  from page to screen there’s a surprising amount of love invested in getting this messy little novel’s film transition just  right.  For my money, it succeeds...


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