Monday, May 6, 2013

The Rum Diary and Hunter S. Thompson

Maybe I'm behind the curve on Hunter S. Thompson. Maybe I'm too new to his writing to make any credible summations. True, the only full H.S. Thompson story I've made it through is Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and that wasn't even his book but a Johnny Depp film made from it. And the only writing of Thompson's I've actually read so far is The Rum Diary, and here I'm no more than half way through the book. But I have to say, the man knew his craft. The Rum Diary is an exquisite example. He's created a protagonist that's at once crabby, observant, despicable, a lush, indecisive, but thinks he knows what he wants, and that, despite your own inclinations towards the man, you find yourself somehow liking and admiring.

I love a book that's built like Thompson pieces together his Rum Diary. Each chapter feels almost as if it is a little vignette, a story in its own right but really part of a larger whole that eventually brings to life an entire plot you never knew you were reading. His character descriptions make me feel nostalgic, like I'm remembering the character he's describing instead of listening to him form a picture of that character in my head.

I'll admit I'm still apprehensive to read his other works, Fear and Loathing in Vegas being one of them. But the reasons for my trepidation are different now. Before I'd read any of his stuff I'd known him really by reputation only, and later the aforementioned movie made from his work. Based on that, I thought reading Thompson wouldn't be worth my time. It seemed too off kilter to relate. Now, though, I don't know that I want to read his other stuff because I'm loving this earlier* work so much that I don't want his later writings to diminish the admiration I'm presently feeling for him as an author.

Strange, I know, but there it is. And if you're wondering what brought me to reading Thompson now? Well, if you must know, I'm a sucker for catchy titles and good rum.

(*Just FYI, though The Rum Diary was published in '98, Thompson originally conceived it in the late 1950s.)