The Rum Diary – Where’s Raoul Duke?
The Rum Diary hits theaters tomorrow with Johnny Depp once again playing our favorite “gonzo” journalist. Well, not quite. The Rum Diary was Hunter S. Thompson’s second novel, written when he was just 22 years old, long before he’d even coined the term “gonzo.” It was rejected seven times and Thompson had pretty much given up hope that it would ever be published. Forty years and several books later, Thompson revisited the book and decided it was a good story (and would make him a lot of money.) The Rum Diary was finally published in 1998.
It will be interesting to see how fans react to this movie. Thompson based Paul Kemp, the story’s main character on himself and his experiences living in Puerto Rico. And Paul Kemp is no Raoul Duke. This is not the Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas Thompson; this is a young, down and out writer trying to find his voice and keep himself fed. Sure, there’s a lot of drinking (as the name implies), and there is a fair amount of craziness. But if you’re expecting the same kind of drug-fueled lunacy that made Fear and Loathing famous, you might be disappointed.
When it comes to Hunter S. Thompson fans, I have mixed feelings. There are those who have read everything he wrote and understand that the character he created for himself is just that, a character. And, there are those, of course, who read Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (or more likely saw the movie), and go to Halloween parties dressed up as Raoul Duke and Dr. Gonzo.
Thompson himself realized that people wanted him to be Raoul Duke, they preferred Raoul Duke, and it bothered him. And it’s still happening today, ask most people to describe Hunter S. Thompson and I can almost guarantee you’ll get a description of Raoul Duke.
But maybe this movie will begin to change people’s perceptions. As I mentioned earlier, The Rum Diary is a story about a young, down and out writer who moves to Puerto Rico trying to find his voice. It’s a work of fiction, but it’s based on Thompson’s personal experiences living in Puerto Rico, trying to get a job at the English-language daily called the San Juan Star. It’s a fast-paced story; it’s exciting, and has the requisite number of alcoholic maniacs. Most importantly, it is a glimpse into the early life and early work of one of the most (in)famous writers of all time.
Will the masses be moved? I don’t know, but I hope that, some of them anyway, will see that there was more to Hunter S. Thompson than a head full of acid.
What do you think? Seeing the movie? Read the book? Give us some feedback, post your Thoughts below.