Rum Diary Question #27 ~ From 1959-1998

by Hunter S. Thompson

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Rum Diary Question #27 ~ From 1959-1998

Unread postby Liz » Sat May 15, 2010 11:52 am

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Referring back to the Kennedy quote:

The tools Hunter S. Thompson would use in the years ahead-bizarre wit, mockery without end, redundant excess, supreme self-confidence, the narrative of the wounded meritorious ego, and the idiopathic anger of the righteous outlaw -- were all there in his precocious imagination in San Juan. There, too were the beginnings of his future as a masterful prose stylist. ~ William Kennedy

How should we view the Rum Diary given that he started it in 1959 and didn't finish it until 1998?

How much of the book was written in the present and how much is in the past?

Which Hunter are we seeing here?
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Re: Rum Diary Question #28 ~ From 1959-1998

Unread postby gemini » Sat May 15, 2010 7:24 pm

Well obviously this is just speculation, but I would think most of the story was finished, if not on paper, at least in Hunters head. I imagine he might have updated a few things since he had the experience of looking back. My guess is some of the thoughts on time we thought were strange from a young man may have been added by the older man.
Kennedy is correct that the tools he used then were all still part of him today. I don't think Hunter changed his personality much from a young man to middle age. He gained experience but he was always a " righteous outlaw".
"If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went." Will Rogers

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Re: Rum Diary Question #28 ~ From 1959-1998

Unread postby deppaura » Sat May 15, 2010 10:25 pm

Well, he got crustier as he aged. Perhaps the drugs were influential. I think it's cool that the "gentleness" remained and that he didn't edit the personality of Kemp. Again, I am not totally familiar with all of his writings, but, TRD was possibly or really his only attempt at writing a novel? Wonder if that was a secret expression or desire for him? Something close to his heart?

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Re: Rum Diary Question #28 ~ From 1959-1998

Unread postby gemini » Sat May 15, 2010 10:52 pm

deppaura wrote:Well, he got crustier as he aged. Perhaps the drugs were influential. I think it's cool that the "gentleness" remained and that he didn't edit the personality of Kemp. Again, I am not totally familiar with all of his writings, but, TRD was possibly or really his only attempt at writing a novel? Wonder if that was a secret expression or desire for him? Something close to his heart?


I found it amusing in the video you found of him interviewed by Charlie Rose that he seemed to have a lot of excuses to answer why that was his only novel. Nearly all the books out are collections of short stories and articles he did covering sports or politics except the one about the Hells Angels. He sort of said he followed the issues and the money and that was why he never wrote another novel.

When you really think about it, everything he wrote centered around himself even his coverage of events. I think TRD was started when he was young enough, he still thought he could change the world. That is why so many people say Kemp was naive. As you say, the older Hunter was "crustier". That was polite, I was thinking more of jaded or cynical.
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Re: Rum Diary Question #28 ~ From 1959-1998

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Sun May 16, 2010 1:30 pm

In the Charlie Rose interview he talks about the irony of the fact that he started as a novelist and became a journalist while William Kennedy started as a journalist and became a novelist. He does spend a lot of time sort of making excuses as to why he never got back to being a novelist but he certainly seemed to have found his passion as a journalist. I would imagine there was some polishing that occurred before it went to a final printing but his literary voice is certainly there.
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Re: Rum Diary Question #28 ~ From 1959-1998

Unread postby nebraska » Sun May 16, 2010 1:41 pm

DeppInTheHeartOfTexas wrote:In the Charlie Rose interview he talks about the irony of the fact that he started as a novelist and became a journalist while William Kennedy started as a journalist and became a novelist. He does spend a lot of time sort of making excuses as to why he never got back to being a novelist but he certainly seemed to have found his passion as a journalist. I would imagine there was some polishing that occurred before it went to a final printing but his literary voice is certainly there.


I agree, DITHOT. I think Hunter would have recognized the purity and character of the earlier writing and not wanted to lose that.

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Re: Rum Diary Question #28 ~ From 1959-1998

Unread postby Liz » Sun May 16, 2010 3:43 pm

nebraska wrote:
DeppInTheHeartOfTexas wrote:In the Charlie Rose interview he talks about the irony of the fact that he started as a novelist and became a journalist while William Kennedy started as a journalist and became a novelist. He does spend a lot of time sort of making excuses as to why he never got back to being a novelist but he certainly seemed to have found his passion as a journalist. I would imagine there was some polishing that occurred before it went to a final printing but his literary voice is certainly there.


I agree, DITHOT. I think Hunter would have recognized the purity and character of the earlier writing and not wanted to lose that.


In TRD I detect the literary voice that Hunter had in some of his later writings.....although I have to confess I have not read all that many. When comparing The Rum Diary with the short story we discussed last fall, Burial at Sea (1961), I found the writing in TRD to be much more lyrical. The style that I equate with Hunter (from F&LILV, Song of the Sausage Creature and The KY Derby) is very apparent in TRD but not at all (to me) in Burial at Sea.

This leads me to think that he may have reworked the style of TRD in later years. But this is just speculation.
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Re: Rum Diary Question #28 ~ From 1959-1998

Unread postby Buster » Sun May 16, 2010 4:16 pm

Liz, you make a good point. I think writing styles evolve over time, and we edit to align with our current style. I don't think he re-wrote The Rum Diary, per se, but I'll bet he tweaked it pretty hard.
He must have been discouraged about being unable to find a publisher. That may be one reason reporting was more comfortable - in a sense, when he was sent out "on assignment", the story was already accepted - he didn't have to "sell" it after he finished in quite the same way he had to peddle his novel.

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Re: Rum Diary Question #28 ~ From 1959-1998

Unread postby Liz » Sun May 16, 2010 5:10 pm

You make a very important point, Buster.

Journalism pays the rent (or at least it used to). Novels are a little bit more risky.
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Re: Rum Diary Question #28 ~ From 1959-1998

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Sun May 16, 2010 5:25 pm

I think he alludes to that a bit in the Charlie Rose interview. The bills were getting paid and it was hard to turn down a sure check.
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Re: Rum Diary Question #28 ~ From 1959-1998

Unread postby deppaura » Sun May 16, 2010 10:26 pm

I think his heart was in TRD. He mentioned the Fitzgerald influence. It probably was hard for Hunter to put his heart on the line. He found his strength and recognition as a journalist. But, I wonder if secretly he would have preferred to be an acknowledged novelist in the world with Hemingway, Fitzgerald. Those specific literary accomplishments. I think of Johnny with his "heart" love of music. And his success as an actor, recognition as an actor. Would he have rather been a Keith Richards?

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Re: Rum Diary Question #28 ~ From 1959-1998

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Mon May 17, 2010 4:08 pm

That's a good question and a tough one to answer. We never forget our first love. Good for Johnny that he still has his time in the music world. I think Hunter would have loved to been known as a great novelist given his admiration for so many great authors. I guess time just has a way of slipping away...
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Wow! What a ride!

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Re: Rum Diary Question #28 ~ From 1959-1998

Unread postby ladylinn » Tue May 18, 2010 11:41 am

Sorry I am late and trying to catch up. There was alot of changes in the world between l959 - l998. Many wars fought not only on the battlefield but in the US. People stood up for their beliefs and demonstrated them in many ways and in various places. Hunter no doubt saw these and it had to make a mark on him. I agree DITHOT that Hunter's first love was writing a novel but felt the need to express himself through his journalism. I am truely sorry he died too young.


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