The Rum Diary, revisted (Hunter S. Thompson)

My experience with reading is surprisingly quite numerical. Numbers of pages, frequency of allusions, and how many Starbucks boxes my book collection filled in the process of my move last October.[1] In eager anticipation of my newest book purchase, Patricia Meyer Spacks’ On Rereading, I’m in the process of checking off a second reread of Hunter S. Thompson’s The Rum Diary.


Of course I’m thinking about Johnny Depp when I’m reading this book!

So much has happened since my first read of the book during the summer of my MA — Hunter S. is best read in the sunburnt days of early summer. At this early point in his career, his characters weren’t ingesting Fear and Loathing’s signature cocktails of pills and sniffables, but this novel is a fine introduction to the author’s world of excess via rum, beer… and more rum. A day after I got to experience the peaceful beauty of Ontario’s Sandbacks Provincial Park,[2] I remembered it with a smile as Thompson describes the deep sense of peace when he sees Vieques island:

My first feeling was a wild desire to drive a stake in the sand and claim the place for myself. The beach was white as salt, and cut off from the world by a ring of steep hills that faced the sea. We were on the edge of a large bay and the water was that clear, turquoise colour that you get with a white sand bottom. I had never seen such a place. I wanted to take off all my clothes and never wear them again.


Yeah, I can definitely see it.

I gave you a few extra lines to enjoy the effect of that passage. No more explanation necessary – so beautiful.

On a different note, I’m a sucker for allusions, the literary equivalent of the exponent. With Hunter S., you can tell that he’s read and enjoyed the influence of Hemingway. I hear his voice in this passage:

Then I heard another sound, the muted rhythm of a steel band. It was getting dark now, and I couldn’t tell what direction the music was coming from. It was a soft, compelling sound, and I sat there and drank and listened to it, feeling at peace with myself and the world, as the hills behind me turned a red-gold colour in the last slanting rays of the sun.

But Hemingway I’ll keep for those last, more desperate days of summer. Until then, I’m going to drink mojitos and work on evening out those tan lines.

[1] Listen here, bibliophiles: if you’re moving books, the boxes that ship Starbucks Coffee, the ones they recycle every few weeks at countless stores, are the only ones for you. Tip: a smaller box means you’re not over-filling it with your heavy books.

[2] Which I’m quick to hype Parks in case there’s a Leslie Knope-type at the helm of the operation.

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