The Rum Diary by Hunter S. Thompson (Book Rev)

Happy Monday!

If you’re reading this that means I am still, in fact, alive.  I haven’t posted much in the last month because November(1) but I have been reading some good stuff or rather more accurately what I’ve read has been about as good as a bag of mix nuts: about half the total are peanuts and the rest are unique and really nice.  If The Bootlegger was a pedestrian peanut (I’ll be fair, it was consistently good but nothing exciting or surprising), The Rum Diary was a strange shaped and richly flavoured Brazil nut.

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The Rum Diary is considered Hunter’s “lost novel” but actually it was the second novel he wrote and didn’t publish until later, the first one being Prince Jellyfish which still remains unpublished.

The Rum Diary’s narrative focuses on a young American journalist, Paul Kemp, on assignment in Puerto Rico’s capital city San Juan.  Kemp is worried, or in a martyr type way, romanticizes, about the notion of  being “over the hill” whilst living a wet and transient existence traveling the world over as a “vagrant journalist”.

[Vagrant journalists] were professionally deviant, but they had a few things in common. They depended, mostly from habit, on newspapers and magazines for the bulk of their income; their lives were geared to long chances and sudden movement; and they claimed no allegiance to any flag and valued no currency but luck and good contacts.

The book opens with some background to the narrative, outlining the steady success of an ex-jockey named named Al who opened a bar out of his backyard called (wait for it…) “Al’s Backyard”.

“At first he served nothing but beer, at twenty cents a bottle, and rum, at a dime a shot or fifteen cents with ice.  After several months he began serving hamburgers, which he made himself.

Al’s backyard will serve as one of the main stages for the drama of the news staff to unfold as it serves as a place for, as it seems, almost exclusively the cast of characters working at the Daily News, the American news paper.  Having the introduction chapter outline the humble history of this establishment, one which was there before the characters and maybe also before the Daily News, helps to establish a couple of themes which become prominent through  the story: the primary theme being one of establishing the sense that despite the characters feelings, they and their actions are ultimately insignificant because the world they’re operating in is older and better connected then they are and the more subtle theme that authentic work is much less likely to get you beaten, killed, or become an accessory to murder.

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Relevant example of the US – Puerto Rico Relationship

As I’ve mentioned there are many motifs that could be explored in this novel, one of particular interest to me is the relationship of the dog, the character Moberg, and the Puerto Rican children in the narrative, but what stuck with me was the dynamic between Yeamon, Kemp, and Sala.

All manner of men came to work for the News: everything from wild young Turks who wanted to rip the world in half and star all over again — to tired, beer-bellied old hacks who wanted nothing more than to live our their days in peace before a bunch of lunatics ripped the world in half.

Yeamon is the young Turk whilst Sala is the beer-bellied hack which leaves Kemp in a grey “teetering on  the edge of over the hill”  area thematically and literally, being between the ages of the young Yeamon and the over 40 Sala.

This is an interesting technique of building Kemp’s character by contrasting him with two other characters who represent a possible past and a possible future.  This definition by contrast emphasizes Kemp’s journey of self exploration which gives a cathartic context of absolution to a seemingly unusual scene towards the end of the book depicting Kemp throwing him self into the surf and letting himself be washed ashore.

“The surf was high and I felt a combination of fear and eagerness as I took off my clothes and walked towards it.  In the backlash of a huge wave I plunged in and let it suck me out to sea. Moments later I was hurtling back toward the beach on top of a long white breaker that carried me along like a torpedo. Then it spun me around like a dead fish and slammed me on the sand so hard that my back was raw for days afterwards.” 192-3

The significance of this scene seems to be that Kemp desires to transcend the trappings of an idealized past and seeming inevitability of beer fueled burn out via an impromptu performance of a cleansing ritual traditionally preformed in June called “La Noche de San Juan”

On the island of Puerto Rico, which had been named San Juan Bautista, after the saint, by Christopher Columbus, a night-long celebration, called “La Noche de San Juan” is held. After sunset, people travel to a beach or any accessible body of water (e.g. river, lake or even bathtub) and, at midnight, fall backwards into it three, seven or twelve times. This is done to cleanse the body from bad luck and give good luck for the following year. wiki

There’s so much more to this book that I haven’t time to explore but I implore you to get a copy of The Rum Diary and see what speaks to you.

-fin
AUTHORS NOTE:

Life has been very good but busy for me and I am not sure if I can commit to a regular posting schedule for a while.  I’m in the process of moving and my job in in a transitional period also (both improvements) but because of this, I haven’t had much time left over for non-work/non-home stuff.  The next post will be a comic, maybe the next few honestly.

 

Footnotes:

  1. I don’t know, November is one of my least favourite months and looking back last November was similar in posting schedule, as in almost none, so maybe I’ll just be taking November off each year.  Wouldn’t that be something?
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Date Night (NSFW comic)

Happy Friday!

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Remember the girl holding Fin’s hand in the Friday the 13th Special? Let me present the newest character in the cast: Lady Sugar Skull – sweet as she is strange but no less deadly.  I have a story arc staring her and Fin in one of the dark and secretive corners of the OBOP multiverse coming up in a few months. I’m going somewhere with the “Count Rubber’s Keep” arc (I’m assured by the voice in my head that gives me all my ideas), which will tie into the next story arc (which I’m keeping under golden-flaky layers [hint] because spoilers) which will have a rather grim [hint] and dramatic climax leading directly into the Lady Sugar Skull arc.  I’ll be honest, I have no idea what’s going to happen after the Lady Sugar Skull arc but I do know Fin won’t be quite the same afterwards.

Hope everyone who has date night tonight doesn’t encounter commutation mishaps unless they’re awkward AND funny.

My Monday posting will be tentative because I’m getting some stuff sorted out around the hose and I’m trying to get some personal shit.  Nothing overly exciting but it’s been time exhausting.  No complaints but nothing to write about either.  I’m about to finish The Rum Diary by the last great hero in American Journalism Hunter S Thompson and I believe that will be the next book I write about.  The novel has hit a lot of personal chords and I feel like I’ll have some interesting things to say about it.  I have also been listening to Streetlight Manifesto’s album The Hands that Thieve on near constant repeat the last few weeks and I may write something about that one of these Mondays as it’s a piece that has similarly captured a particular zeitgeist in my life that should has been the ticket for some entertaining trains of thought.

Will be back eventually (probably “somewhat sooner” than “way later”),

fin

Hunter S Thompson: The Strangest Hero of American Journalism

Happy Thursday!

I was watching the PBS youtube series “Blank on Blank” which is in their words,

“Vintage interview tapes. New Animations.  We transform journalists’ unheard interviews with cultural icons. The future of journalism is remixing the past.”

I ran across the Hunter S. Thompson interview.

 

Which prompted me to rewatch the documentary “Buy the Ticket, Take the Ride” which was about HST and his life.

As a young writer, I like many admired the work of Thompson and likely I’m not the only one who he inspired to want to get into journalism.  Hunter had a fearless, fucking crazy, ferocious attitude towards life and applied that to his journalism.  Hunter rode with the Hell’s Angles(1) as a topic for one of his earlier books of the same name “Hell’s Angles”, he developed a antagonist bordering-on “super hero v super villain” arch-nemesis type relationship with then usa president Richard Nixon.

The following is an excerpt from Hunter S Thompson’s Obituary to Richard Nixon, He was a Crook: A scathing obituary of Richard Nixon, originally published in Rolling Stone on June 16, 1994″.  The whole thing can be found here at The Atlantic.

Richard Nixon is gone now, and I am poorer for it. He was the real thing — a political monster straight out of Grendel and a very dangerous enemy. He could shake your hand and stab you in the back at the same time. He lied to his friends and betrayed the trust of his family. Not even Gerald Ford, the unhappy ex-president who pardoned Nixon and kept him out of prison, was immune to the evil fallout. Ford, who believes strongly in Heaven and Hell, has told more than one of his celebrity golf partners that “I know I will go to hell, because I pardoned Richard Nixon.”

I have had my own bloody relationship with Nixon for many years, but I am not worried about it landing me in hell with him. I have already been there with that bastard, and I am a better person for it. Nixon had the unique ability to make his enemies seem honorable, and we developed a keen sense of fraternity. Some of my best friends have hated Nixon all their lives. My mother hates Nixon, my son hates Nixon, I hate Nixon, and this hatred has brought us together.

Nixon laughed when I told him this. “Don’t worry,” he said, “I, too, am a family man, and we feel the same way about you.”

USA journalism today could use a hero like Hunter S Thompson. With his death, journalism lost it’s hunger for the bloody raw truth and razor sharp teeth which to rip it from the layers of BS covering it.

As Hunter once described his artist friend, Ralph Steadmen, “Too weird to live, too rare to die.” Which can just as easily be applied to Hunter him self.  The world we live in full of rising nationalism, sinking empathy, and ubiquitous confusion needs now more than ever a shining beacon of light that radiates from cultural folk heroes like Thompson.

However if we keep waiting for superman, we might live long enough to learn that “Today a stampede killed superman.”

 

Even though Hunter was a self described rebel, I think this lyric encompasses his philosophy about freedom: “Tonight I burn my bookshelf to be free
Because even a rebel tradition is slavery”.

The world still misses you, Hunter.  You might be gone but your hellish spirit will never die in the hearts of the truly free.

 

Footnotes:

  1. A usa motorcylce gang, quite violent and very scary lot. I actually have a personal story about the Hell’s Angles but that’s for another time maybe.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Series Review

Happy Monday and Labor Day for my American readers.

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This info-graph is a general overview of the series.

The Hitchhiker’s guide has an interesting history beginning as a pitch for a 6 part series called “The Ends of the Earth” where the earth ends at the end of each episode surly many of them end on a stupid Thursday(1).  This idea eventually evolved into what we have here today and then some(2) including the movie adaptation of the first book.

This series has a pretty close place to my heart and I have a pretty long history with it, probably the longest/first bookmance(3) I’ve ever had.  I remember when I was a kid, somewhere around 13-15 years old, my dad gave me the first Hitchhiker’s guide book.

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This is the cover art my dad’s copy had. Still my favourite of the versions.  Look at that meaty hand.

It might have been my first literary brush with literary si-fi, I was brought up on Red Dwarf(4) so I was well prepared, and it was good. Really good.

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This is the cover art my best friend in middle school (ages 11-14ish) in school had. Clearly inferior to the original.

My dad had all the rest of the original books up to So Long and Thanks For All the Fish and I ate them all up. I have specific memories of reading these books in school and literally laughing out loud involuntarily in class.  I’m pretty easy to laugh(5) but usually I’m pretty good at restraining my self in public but this book got me several times.  Even on revisits.

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My first copy of the omni-bus.

Fast forward a few years and I’m at a book store, constantly building my library (sometimes I like to think about the day when I have enough books, that I’ve actually read AND enjoy no cheating with “the entire Steven King collection”, to make a book fort(6)), and I see this almost biblical looking version of the collection which was really nice because it came with a tassel bookmark.  This copy got donated after the first or second library purge(7) and in the last year since getting back into school I’ve begun replacing or obtaining copies of books I remember reading and enjoying but had borrowed from a friend or the library and this series was recommended to me on amazon.

This is my third and most recent re-reading of the series and I’ve had mixed reactions.  At first I was totally pumped to read this thinking I would blow through it in a few weeks but it ended up taking me about two months to read 815 pages +/- 20 pages because they count the title and dedication pages in between each book and most of that was spent trudging through Life, The Universe, and Everything.  However we will get to that in time.  The good news is that this series starts and ends pretty strongly (see info-graph above).

As in Adams style(8), over the next 7 weeks I will present to you:

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Ultimate Review:

A 7 part review in 8 parts

Tune in next week for part II: The actual review for The Hitchhiker’s to the Galaxy the book.

Footnotes:

  1. The Earth is destroyed on a Thursday afternoon several times in the series.
  2. As I learned in researching this article that there has been yet another novel added to the series called “…and another thing.” which, I personally, do not count as cannon and will not likely read the reasons for which will become clear as this series progresses.
  3. If we can have words like “bromance“, which I reluctantly have adopted in specific situations, I’m championing the word “bookmance”.   I’ve submitted a definition to urban dictionary and I might adopt the word for one year for 25$ on wordnik, my favourite dictionary site.  Depends on if urban diction approves.
  4. I have so many fond memories of late night Sunday, kind of like tonight actually (as I write this that is), as a kid with my parents watching the foreign shows on PBS channel nine like Red Dwarf (British) and The Red Green Show (Canadian).  These came on, if I remember right, after the X-Files on Sunday nights.  Sometimes we would order Cecil’s or Imo’s Pizza, St Louis Style pizza, and it was pretty much the best.  I have a lot of television related memories, more the scheduling aspects rather than the shows them selves.  I don’t know, there’s an essay memoir in there. Something in Infinite Jest rattled it loose.  Stay tuned.
  5. I read a snapple facts once “Snapple fact #831: Adults laugh only about 15 to 100 times a day, while six-year-olds laugh an average of 300 times a day.”  and I keep meaning to start a data crunch project on this, I keep track of other things in my journal.  Another thing for the list.
  6. book fort
  7. As a minimalist I have regular purge events where I strip down to bare essentials however in the last major purge I decided to begin building a library rather than holding on to a few prized pieces, however I do prune it regularly.
  8. His series started as a trilogy and remains to be frequently refereed to as a trilogy because humour.

 

 

 

Happy Back-to-School Day!

It’s the first day of school for my friends and would be for me too if I wasn’t studying abroad this year.  Every scholastic year anticipation of this day fills me with an unique restless energy including this year not because of starting my new classes but I just applied for my student visa yesterday and as I’ve been telling my friends

I’m fear sweating for the next 7-10 days.

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How I feel. Source

Fear-and-Loathing-in-Las-Vegas

How I think I look. Source.

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How I actually look. Source.

It’s a really scary application process.  It’s expensive(1) and it is the single lynch pin that could ruin the effort of the tens of hours I’ve spent getting signatures and the pages of paperwork I’ve had to fill out and the money I’ve already spent into the program.  Real talk: I’m almost a full year invested into this process.  I took the first step of submitting my application to my school’s study abroad program as early as permitted in late September or early October.  Ever since then my life has been a roller coaster but everything I’ve done had  the baseline motivation of “I’m going to England”.

After a full year’s worth of personal(2) strife, professional(3) trials, and scholastic(4) auto-flogging, filling in the time between deadlines and approvals, I’m literally as close as I can get to being given the green light and all this pressure sitting on one final bureaucratic signature is an extremely intense feeling.

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Footnotes:

  1. For me $446 + $150 for international insurance or some such
  2. Coping with loss, struggling with drinking, getting sober, and staying sober, anticipated grief, moving, the brief fear of homelessness, friends moving to the 4 corners of the earth, generally trying to get my life back on the right track
  3. Working crap food job, trying to balance hours and homework load (4 nights a week or 26 hrs at work while taking 12 credit hours both fall and spring term [see footnote 4]), drama coupled with working said crap food job
  4. Fall term was my first term at full time University level courses since 2007-8 scholastic year where I went to Mizzou for my freshmen year taking 20 credit hours a term.  I burnt out pretty hard after that first year, ergo the seven year break. Fall term 2015 I took some heavy stuff, Calculus I and Statics/Probabilities (Past me: “Yea I always liked math and I kinda want a challenge. Nice way to finish my Math/Science requirements.” Present me: “You right stupid feckin’ idiot.”), and some lighter stuff, theater 101 and Anthropology of Native American Spirituality, the same mentioned previously in footnote 5 of “Getting to know the Neighbloggerhood”, then Spring Term 2016 I took a bunch of literary and writing courses which were fun but the work load got really intense with working all week and maintaining a regular drinking habit.  Basically my week was like this: M-F School (8am), Work, Bed(Midnight); S-S: Homework 8am – 7pmish, drink to sleep, repeat. It was pretty rough. Things are easier now and things should be easier in England. I’m only taking 16 credit hours, equivalent, and my visa allows me to work up to 20 hours a week but no more.