Rum Diary

Thompson, Hunter S. The Rum Diary. Simon & Schuster, 1999.

Reason read: to celebrate Eugenio Maria de Hostos, philosopher who campaigned for education for women. His life is celebrated on the second Monday in January in Puerto Rico. Additionally, for the 2023 Portland Public Library Reading Challenge, I needed a book with a person on the cover.

Paul Kemp, fresh in from New York, begins writing for the Daily News in San Juan. Throughout the entire Rum Diary he comes off as a bumbling and stumbling alcoholic cad who never really writes very much. He spends a great deal of time eating hamburgers at Al’s, chasing women, playing on the beach, getting into various troubles, and of course, drinking gallons of rum. Paul works off a tangle of conflicting emotions through an alcoholic haze. Rum on the island act as a currency.
Thompson’s portrait of Paul Kemp seems three quarters finished. Underneath the swagger and swaying, there lies a decent soul, but you never really understand Paul.
As as aside, I have never been to San Juan so I don’t know why this is a thing, but there seems to be a peculiar animosity towards stray dogs on the island.

Confessional: Reading Doug Stanhope’s Digging Up Mother at the same time as Hunter S. Thompson’s Rum Diary was like a lesson in debauchery. Even though Stanhope’s memories were thirty years later than Thompson’s, the attitudes were much the same. Here’s another trivial similarity – Johnny Depp starred in Thompson’s movie. He also wrote the foreword for Digging Up Mother.

Best lines, “Arriving half-drunk in a foreign place is hard on the nerves” (p 12).

Author fact: Thompson is better known for his novel Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

Book trivia: Rum Diary was made into a movie starring Johnny Depp.

Playlist: Braham’s Lullaby and “Maybellene”.

Nancy said: Rum Diary is an “exuberant” picture of the drinking life in Puerto Rico. She’s not wrong.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Cavorting Through the Caribbean (Puerto Rico)” (p 57).

Lost

Treichel, Hans-Ulrich. Lost. Translated by Carol Brown Janeway. Pantheon Books, 1999.

Reason read: April is known for April Fool’s Day. Lost is known for its black humor.

Who is more important? The son who didn’t go missing in1945 or the lost son who has the potential to be found? When we think of war, we think of brave soldiers on the battlefield; soldiers sustaining horrific wounds and giving up previous lives. We hardly think of the refugees, the byproducts of conflict. Treichel tells the German story of an-every wartime family fleeing Russian encroachment. In haste and confusion, an infant is handed off for safe keeping, never to be seen again. Despite having a second son, the parents never forget their firstborn son, Arnold. When this second son is told the story of his missing older brother he is only eight years old and wise enough to know that if Arnold is found, his life will change forever. As the younger and more insignificant brother, he will have to share everything he has had to himself for his entire life. Thus begins his story of his parents’ obsessive journey to identify Arnold. Told through the first person lens of an eight year old, the narration is at turns darkly funny and heartbreaking.
Treichel speaks volumes in the things he doesn’t say, “…the dreadful thing that the Russians had done to them, my mother in particular” (p 13). Is he talking about the event when his older brother was “lost” or something more sinister? Is he implying rape?

Author fact: Lost is Treichel’s first novel.

Book trivia: Lost has been called a “small masterpiece” by several reviewers. Indeed, being only 136 pages long, it is a tiny but well written book. Interestingly enough, there are no chapters or even paragraphs.

Nancy said: While Lost is mentioned twice, neither time does Pearl say anything more about the book than to describe the plot.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust twice. First in the chapter called “Black Humor” (p 40). and then again in the chapter called “First Novels” (p 87).